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Santa Claus is comin' to town

November 17th, 2011 11:46 pm by J. H. Osborne

KINGSPORT — It’s Santa Train time in Tennessee! And Virginia! And Kentucky!

The Jolly Old Elf is scheduled to roll into Kingsport just after 3 p.m. Saturday, after spreading Christmas cheer from the back of his namesake train through towns and communities throughout Southwest Virginia and Eastern Kentucky.

This year, Santa’s best-known travel buddies will be husband and wife Keifer and Shawna Thompson, who constitute country duo Thompson Square. Upon the train’s arrival in Kingsport, they will perform from a platform also used by Santa’s helpers to toss gifts to the crowd.

The performance is scheduled to begin outside the Kingsport Area Chamber of Commerce at 3:08 p.m. The chamber’s building is located at 151 E. Main St. Roads will be blocked off starting around 12:30 p.m. for the Christmas Parade, which starts at 3:30 p.m.

Thompson Square, on the Stoney Creek Records label, reached the No. 1 spot on radio charts — and has sold more than 1 million digital singles — with their break-out single, “Are You Gonna Kiss Me Or Not.” Thompson Square’s latest single, “I Got You,” recently climbed into the Top 10 on the Billboard Country Songs chart.

They garnered two CMA nominations, Vocal Duo of the Year and New Artist of the Year.

In past years, U.S. senators and representatives and several governors have participated in the Santa Train, as well as celebrity guests such as The Judds, Alison Krauss, Patty Loveless, Kathy Mattea and Travis Tritt.

Co-sponsored by CSX Transportation, the Kingsport Area Chamber of Commerce, Food City, and Kids Wish Network, the Santa Train is a history-steeped tradition that each year heralds the Christmas season’s arrival in Southwest Virginia and Northeast Tennessee.

It began as a way for Kingsport’s merchants to say thanks to all the folks along its 110-mile route for shopping in the Model City. Santa rides the train from Kentucky, through Virginia and into Tennessee, arriving in downtown Kingsport just in time to bring up the rear of the Kingsport Christmas Parade — leading to the train having been called the “longest Christmas parade in the world.”

Santa, Thompson Square and other “elves” will distribute an estimated 15 tons of donated gifts to children of all ages at 14 stops, including the end of the line in downtown Kingsport. Gifts are distributed only when the train is stopped. Nothing is thrown from the train while it is in motion.

Items distributed by Santa and his helpers come from donations from across the nation each year from individuals, groups and businesses. This year Kids Wish Network has contributed $500,000 worth of toys — the largest single donation in train history.

Each year, thousands of people — including families for whom a visit to the train is a multi-generational tradition — turn out at stops along the way, regardless of the weather.

Much of the train’s journey winds through the countryside not far from one road or another, offering motorists there a little look at what used to be a common sight in the region: a train that includes passenger cars. If you can’t make it elsewhere on the train’s route and just want a glimpse of history, a quintessential spot to view the train or snap a photo is where the Santa Train crosses the Copper Creek Viaduct, visible from U.S. Highway 23 about 15 miles north of Kingsport. If the train is running on schedule Saturday — and it usually does — it will cross the viaduct sometime after 1:10 p.m. and before 1:50 p.m.

This year’s scheduled stops and arrival and departure times are:


•Shelby — 6:30 a.m. departure

•Marrowbone — 6:45 a.m. arrival, 7 a.m. departure

•Elkhorn City — 7:25 a.m. arrival, 7:45 a.m. departure


•Toms Bottom — 8:05 a.m. arrival, 8:15 a.m. departure

•Haysi — 8:27 a.m. arrival, 8:42 a.m. departure

•Clinchco — 9 a.m. arrival, 9:15 a.m. departure

•Fremont — 9:28 a.m. arrival, 9:53 a.m. departure

•Dante — 10:28 a.m. arrival, 10:48 a.m. departure

•St. Paul — 11:08 a.m. arrival, 11:28 a.m. departure

•Dungannon — 12:13 p.m. arrival, 12:33 p.m. departure

•Fort Blackmore — 12:53 p.m. arrival, 1:08 p.m. departure

•Kermit — 1:48 p.m. arrival, 2:18 p.m. departure

•Waycross — 2:30 p.m. arrival, 2:45 p.m. departure


•Arrive in Kingsport, 3:08 p.m.

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