The Cottage Grove stop along the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train's North American tour has earned a reputation as the biggest and best, local organizers have said.

South Washington County worked hard to keep that status on Saturday evening: local Holiday Train planning committee chair Mary Slusser announced $53,000 had been donated to the Friends in Need Food Shelf in St. Paul Park and thousands gathered near Cottage Grove's Belden Crossing for the Christmas light adorned train's hour-long stop.

The 2009 Holiday Train's final fundraising tally will be more than the $53,000 announced Saturday, Slusser said, once donations from the event are counted.

This year marked the Holiday Train's seventh stop in Cottage Grove; the $53,000-plus in contributions sets a new fundraising high for the Cottage Grove stop.