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November 30, 2012

Santa rides holiday train through region

Mark Boshnack
The Daily Star

---- — Santa Claus came to Oneonta on Thursday thanks to an annual program by the Canadian Pacific Railway.

Oneonta was the first of five stops the CP Holiday Train made Thursday. This is the 14th year of the program that along with bringing holiday songs and Santa to those who attend, raises money and collects food for local food pantries. This year, CP will provide a matching donation to Feed America, whose member food banks are providing food and other supplies to those affected by Hurricane Sandy.

There were several hundred children and family members out when the train stopped at the James Georgeson Avenue railroad crossing in Oneonta, officials said. It was scheduled to stop at Cobleskill, Delanson, Schenectady and Saratoga Springs during the day. Entertainment was provided by the Claytones and special guest Tracey Brown, while Santa mingled with those in attendance.

“Each year we try to have as many stops as we can, providing help to local food pantries,” CP spokesman Ed Greenberg said. Those who attend are asked to bring a nonperishable food item or a cash donation. Everything collected stays in the community, Greenberg said. “It’s heartwarming to see the turnout.”

Mayor Dick Miller welcomed the crowd, saying the event epitomized Oneonta’s slogan, “Life Enjoyed.” It brought together children and families, Christmas, the history of the railroad community, and Opportunities for Otsego, the organization that will benefit from the stop. It will use the donations to help prepare its holiday baskets.

Those interviewed said they enjoyed the event. They included Jann Ewen of Oneonta, who brought the three Oneonta siblings she was babysitting.

“We are here every year,” she said. “We give food to this worthy cause.”

One of those who accompanied her was Amethyst Gardner, 11. She has been coming since she was 2.

“This makes me ready to start the holiday,” she said.

Luna Vega, 11, of Oneonta, was there with friends and relatives including her father, Marqui Vega. This is the first time she had attended the event.

“I like it,” especially the singing, she said. Her father said when he heard the train coming down he brought Luna and her sister Samara to see it. “It’s really nice, and it’s a beautiful day to be out,” he said. He also donated to the cause. It provides support that many might need at some point in their lives, he said.

OFO planning and research director Megan Stanley said she was “pleasantly surprised” by the turnout.

“This is a great community,” that always steps up when there is a need, she said. “Events like this help meet the need.”