Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Transport: Canadian Pacific Spirit Train

As the Spirit Train Band performed on the train stage in the background, Olympic mascots Sumi, Quatchi, and Miga danced in front of the crowd

TORONTO, ONTARIO - On Thanksgiving Day, the residents of Mississauga, Ontario had a little something extra to be thankful for as the Canadian Pacific Spirit Train visited town.

The CP Spirit Train was designed to promote awareness of the upcoming 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia, of which CP is a major sponsor (never mind that the tracks between Vancouver and the other major venue at Whistler are owned by rival Canadian National). As the train travels the nation, it stops for a day to provide a free, family-oriented event.

These CP Spirit Train stops really are great for families. Trains always draw children, and besides the full-size train that sits on the tracks nearby, there's a model of the environmentally-clean locomotive from General Electric powering the train. In addition to providing an introduction to the Winter Olympics and Canadian participation, the Village has lots of fun activities like the chance to start in a luge and test goalie skills. Olympic athletes tend to be on hand to meet toward the beginning of the event (I missed them), and there's also a nutrition display. Wandering the Village are people-sized versions of Olympic mascots Quatchi, Sumi and Miga.

The centerpiece of the event, though are the music performances on the train itself, in a boxcar that transforms into a stage. The Spirit Train Band provides a good show with Olympic-themed songs, but the real headliners are Sierra Noble and the Colin James Band. How often can one see those two acts for free?

Remember to bone up on Canadian Olympic trivia before the event, as prizes are awarded to audience members for their knowledge.

The Spirit Train Village took over the parking lot at the Streetsville GO station in Mississauga, Ontario on 13-October-2008

Throughout its trip across the country, the Spirit Train has periodically been delayed by protests from aboriginal groups upset about the Vancouver Olympics. One such protest in Woodbridge, Ontario delayed the train for several hours on Sunday, placing its arrival in the Greater Toronto Area on Sunday after dark.

The Spirit Train still has performances in Smith Falls, Ontario on Thursday and in Montreal on Saturday--and rumor has it that it may be on tour again next year. For more information, visit the official CP Spirit Train site.

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