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15,000 bundle up to hear Sheryl Crow at Holiday Train concert

Sheryl Crow played about a 40-minute set heavy on her earlier hits at the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train concert Saturday, Dec. 14, 2013, in Cottage Grove, Minn. (Emily Buss/South Washington County Bulletin)1 / 2
Sheryl Crow performs at the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train concert Saturday, Dec. 14, 2013, in Cottage Grove, Minn. (Scott Wente/South Washington 2 / 2

COTTAGE GROVE, Minn. -- Roughly 15,000 people bundled in parkas and plenty of layers Saturday to soak up hit songs by Sheryl Crow as she headlined the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train anniversary concert in Cottage Grove.

“How in the world do you live in a place this cold?” Crow joked midway through her set, the most anticipated performance in a concert event that also included a set by fellow Grammy winner Take 6, Christmas tunes by the Holiday Train house band and the announcement of $125,000 in donations to local and national food banks.

Estimates for the outdoor concert put turnout at up to 15,000 people, Canadian Pacific spokesman Ed Greenberg said. The crowd thinned considerably toward the end of Crow’s 40-minute set as the temperature dropped from the midteens at the beginning of the late-afternoon event to upper single digits by evening.

The concert, billed as the largest event in Cottage Grove history, was the final of three Canadian Pacific celebrations held on the Holiday Train routes this season to celebrate 15 years of the program.

Cottage Grove Mayor Myron Bailey thanked the railroad company, which selected the city as the only host site for a U.S. anniversary concert. Two other concerts were held recently in Canada.

“This obviously means a lot to our community,” Bailey said.

The Friends in Need Food Shelf in St. Paul Park, which has benefited from Holiday Train stops in Cottage Grove for 11 years, was the recipient of $25,000 from Canadian Pacific, on top of $103,000 the local Holiday Train Committee has raised.

The railroad company also donated $100,000 to a national anti-hunger organization called Feeding America.

The stage and surrounding area at Canadian Pacific’s rail yard near Highway 61 at times resembled a snow globe as light flurries whipped through the air and evening darkness was punctuated by concert stage lighting, illuminated bracelets worn by waving and cheering concertgoers and the thousands of Christmas lights that adorned the Holiday Train parked stage right.

An adjacent North Pole Station of heated tents featuring Santa, snacks and children’s activities provided brief warmth for attendees.

Local organizers, including the Holiday Train Committee, were planning for 20,000 to 30,000 people, but acknowledged that weather would dictate the crowd size.

People were encouraged to carpool and park in three designated parking areas served by shuttle buses. Cottage Grove Police Capt. Pete Koerner said traffic and parking went well; there were no logistical problems and attendees were telling officers and volunteers that it went smoothly, Koerner said.

Canadian Pacific paid to stage the event, but officials declined to say how much it cost. The city of Cottage Grove will likely end up paying about $15,000 for highway safety signs, parking lot security and other parking expenses, City Administrator Ryan Schroeder said.

After Cottage Grove, the Holiday Train’s U.S. route continues through northwestern Minnesota and on to North Dakota before crossing into Canada to end the seasonal run. In all, there are about 150 Holiday Train stops in Canada and the U.S. each year.

Scott Wente

Scott Wente has been editor at the South Washington County Bulletin since 2011. He worked as a reporter at other Forum Communications newspapers from 2003 to 2011.

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