Legend has it that before his grand voyage on Dec. 25, Santa uses the train tracks of Appalachia for a trial run. He’s worked it into his schedule for more than 70 years and he’ll do it again Saturday.
The annual excursion of the Santa Train, which weaves through the mountains of three states, begins at 6:30 a.m. in Shelby, Ky., and will end with the big guy’s annual entry into the Downtown Kingsport Christmas Parade at 3 p.m.
The 110-mile trek includes 14 scheduled stops. The biggest change was made several years ago when observers were prohibited from being beside the tracks. For safety’s sake, those participating are only allowed around the caboose for the distribution of gifts once the train comes to a stop.
Sponsors include CSX, Food City, Kingsport Chamber of Commerce and Dignity UWear.
The holiday train loaded with tons of toys and other donated gifts has attracted attention and several superstars over the years, including Wynonna and Naomi Judd, Travis Tritt, Alison Krauss and the late Charles Kuralt of CBS News. This year, 19 Entertainment recording artist and American Idol contestant Kree Harrison, who once made the special trip back in 2001 when she was 11, is along for the ride.
“The first time was such an amazing opportunity to help spread the joy of Christmas to the people of this region that I can’t wait to have an even greater appreciation for the experience the second time around,” Harrison said in a news release earlier this month.
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