Holiday Train chugs through HL family’s tradition

December 24, 2007

A lucky little girl gets a Holiday Train birthday party every year

By Jennifer Gallus
Staff Writer

The Holiday Train made tracks into Bill and Kathy Dolezal’s life four years ago when Kathy was in labor with their fourth child.

A birthday tradition involving the train has evolved for this rural Howard Lake family and the birthday girl, Sophie.

Four years ago on Dec. 13, Kathy had been in labor all day, but was determined to see her daughter Jenna’s dance recital in Buffalo before she had the baby.

“That was my stipulation. I couldn’t have the baby until Jenna’s dance recital was over,” Kathy laughed.

Kathy, her mom, and her sister took Jenna to the recital early. Then, her mom and sister ran to Target, but couldn’t get back across the tracks to the recital because the Holiday Train had stopped in Buffalo, thus blocking the road.

The Holiday Train is currently in its ninth year and is part of the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train Program.

Two trains, one traveling across Canada, and one across the US, are brightly colored with Christmas lights and stop in designated towns to raise food and awareness for local food shelves and spread holiday cheer.

The Dolezals weren’t familiar with the Holiday Train until Kathy’s mom and sister were stuck behind it, called Kathy, and told her about it.

“What Holiday Train?” Kathy asked still very much in labor. That’s when she was told how beautiful and impressive it is.

After the recital, Bill and Kathy dropped the kids off with grandparents and headed to the hospital. Bill called the hospital ahead of time, told them how Kathy had been in labor all day, and told them to get ready.

Nine minutes after arriving at the hospital, Sophie was born.

“We got there at 10:57 p.m. and she was born at 11:06 p.m.,” Kathy said.

Now every year, on Sophie’s birthday, the family celebrates with the Holiday Train when it stops in Annandale. The Holiday Train is annually scheduled for stops in Wright County Dec. 13.

“We go out to eat, have Sophie’s birthday party, and then go see the Holiday Train. It’s a tradition every year now for her birthday,” Kathy explained. “She (Sophie) thinks it’s pretty cool,” she added.

“The first time you take it (the train) in, you can’t believe it,” Bill said. “You have to see it, it’s an experience – even when it’s parked. But when it moves from small town to small town in the dark, it looks like a big old Christmas tree coming down the tracks.”

When the train stops at its scheduled location, one of its cars opens and a band plays music for all those who’ve gathered outside the train.

The Dolezals enjoy the music and when the train leaves for its next stop, the family follows it to South Haven before they head back home to Howard Lake.

The Dolezals four children are Frank, 9; Jenna, 8; Josie, 6; and Sophie, 4. Bill owns Mill City West Auto Body, and Kathy is a stay-at-home mom.

Since 1999, the Holiday Train program has collected about 1.6 million pounds of food donations and raised $3 million for local charities.

In 2006, more than $600,000 and 300,000 pounds of food were donated by Canadians and Americans. All donations collected in a community are distributed throughout that community.