Patrons and visitors from all over the province came to attend Alberta Prairie Railway’s Harvest Pumpkin Fest, riding the special trains that took them to the pumpkin patch on Saturday, Oct. 15.
According to Bob Willis, general manager of Alberta Prairie Railway, there was a very slight decrease in the total numbers this year from those of 2014 and 2015, with 1,082 attendees this year.
But, he attributes this to the “challenging” weather, more than the economic downturn, explaining, “The number of visitors to Alberta Prairie during 2016, month to month and over the balance of season, is actually up and not down from 2014 and 2015.”
It was easy to see how happy and engaged the kids and young adults were as they waited to board the train to the patch.
One of the visitors this year, and a returning passenger Elena Waugh thanked Willis in an email saying, “Just wanted to say thank you for the over-the-top excellent job of the pumpkin train again this year.”
Waugh said that the service, magicians, and amazing pumpkin carvings made for a wonderful experience.
“Even though the weather would have been a challenge, we thought you couldn’t have handled it any better,” said Waugh. “Thank you for all your hard work and we’ll see you again next year.”
This year being the third annual event, Willis said that it was by far the most challenging given the onset of wintry conditions.
“Over the last few months more than 15,000 guests have visited Alberta Prairie and many of these people stay over in hotels and those that don’t often stop for meals, snacks and tanks of gas,” added Willis. “A significant number actually spend time shopping at various businesses around town, which all helps to offset some of the downturn in the economy.”
Willis said that in addition to providing employment of Alberta Prairie Railway’s office and maintenance staff, Harvest Pumpkin Fest used a number of people provided by the Stettler P & H Elevator Preservation Society and the Rocky Mountain Rail Society in return for Alberta Prairie’s continuing support of these two organizations.
Alberta Prairie’s next big event is the Polar Express Train Rides in December.
“It is expected that with the 30 Polar Express trips being offered, between 9,000 and 10,000 people will visit Stettler during the month of December, many of whom will be staying over, with most needing gas and meals,” said Willis. “No doubt there will be some families who decide to do some serious Christmas shopping while they are in town.”