11 OCT 2017: The inaugural Rainbow Train departed Station Inn in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, last month with over 160 passengers from the LGBT community and their friends. Tickets were purchased from Toronto to Timmins, and many places in between. Quite a few also arrived from neighbouring United States, which has easy access right across the Sault Ste, Marie International Bridge.

The Rainbow Train is definitely an opportunity to experience the Agawa Canyon in fine style, that included some awesome onboard entertainment from live music to magicians, trivia, and plenty of giveaways. The day was emceed by several amazing hosts (Joan Rivers, Carol Channing, and Gina Lola-International-Bridge-ida), all courtesy of local drag sensation and female impersonator Tim Murphy, who’s also very well connected in the local theatre community.

Joan Rivers was looking as charming as ever at 8am as the train pulled out of the Sault Ste. Marie train station. Live music was provided outdoors upon arrival at the Agawa Canyon, courtesy of The Shannon Moan Trio (Frank Deresti, Jay Case, Shannon Moan). The trio continued their musical antics aboard the train on the return ride home, along with mind bending, interactive magic from magician and illusionist Ryan McFarling.

A packed lunch was also included in the ticket price, and consisted of a sandwich or wrap, snacks, bottled water, rainbow coloured cookies, and a piece of fruit.

The train travels from downtown Sault Ste. Marie to the Agawa Canyon, where passengers have an opportunity to disembark and hike a few different trails to three waterfalls, or climb over 300 steps up to an amazing lookout vantage point. The nearly 10-hour round-trip is quite spectacular, but also can be a bit tiring toward the end.

The views along the way are spectacular however, especially in the fall as the leaves begin to change colours along this part of the Canadian Shield that greatly inspired the famed Group of Seven artists in Canada.

Local volunteer ambassadors were amazing, from the charming Gaelyn Coleman who owns Amore, to power gal Susan Rajamaki, who used to volunteer with Sault Pride, and was also instrumental in getting Rainbow Camp started. Jeremy Nadon Stephen Frech and Keith Bowser were also awesome, keeping things running smoothly behind the scenes.

There was a suggestion that not many locals attended, and for many of those who did, it was either their first time ever on the train, or first time since their childhood. Perhaps while out-of-towers are wooed by the experience, while the locals look at it as just another tourist attraction.

Another reason locals may not have been aboard was due to the fact that the Rainbow Train and Sault Pride organizers weren’t able to collaborate this year. With the city’s Pride festivities happening the week following the train departure, it seemed like a missed opportunity to have the two events linked. Perhaps next year, the two organizations can work together to be part of one big proud celebration in the north.

Two locals who did attend and had an amazing time, were Sally and Rose, who were decked out in rainbow chic.

Rainbow Train was branded by Jeff Elgie and his partner Emily Hillstrom. Elgie ambitiously purchased 500 tickets, and ended up inviting many of his business contacts from Village Media, when ticket sales didn’t reach capacity. His company also operates the local news site Soo Today, along with many other online publications across the province. He’s branded the Rainbow Train name in hopes of expanding this project further, beyond the Agawa Canyon.

Agawa Canyon Tour Train continues weekend operations until Oct 15 , although if you want to take the Rainbow Train you’re going to have to wait until next year, as I’m sure it will be returning bigger and better once word gets out.

Porter Airlines has daily non-stop flights between Toronto and Sault Ste. Marie.

The Water Tower Inn is an awesome resort-like gay-friendly property that sports the rainbow flag out front of the hotel, and has been a great supporter of Sault Pride events in the past.

The Rainbow Train initiative is supported by Tourism Sault Ste. Marie and the Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership.

 

 

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