Santa's Depot new centerpiece for downtown activities welcoming train

J. H. Osborne • Nov 16, 2017 at 9:00 AM

KINGSPORT — On Saturday afternoon, Centennial Park, on Main Street near the old train station and depot, will be transformed into Santa’s Depot, offering a wide range of free activities for children.

The event, scheduled from 1-4 p.m. and sponsored by Appalachian Power, CSX and the Kingsport Chamber, is designed to enhance the experience of the Santa Train’s arrival at roughly 3 p.m.

It marks a change in the long-held tradition of the Santa Train coinciding with the annual Christmas Parade through downtown. The parade is scheduled for Dec. 2.

At Santa’s Depot, children will receive an official activity passport when they enter the event. Sponsored booths will include cookie decorating, marshmallow fun with Professor Photon, magical wishes paper garlands (to be displayed later in the Kingsport Chamber lobby), coloring activities and more.

Inflatables, a child-size train ride and holiday airbrush tattoos will be onsite and free to youngsters. Attendees will also have the opportunity to experience the magic of real reindeer and sit in Santa’s sleigh, both sponsored by the High Road Agency.

Santa’s Depot will serve as the official site to create and drop off letters to Santa. Children are invited to write their letters onsite and place them in a large, red mailbox, which will be retrieved by Santa when he gets off the Santa Train.

To celebrate the new “Spirit of Generosity” sculpture, the event will include an opportunity to donate cold-weather items for distribution later to those in need. There will be a large barrel for those donations close to the sculpture, which was created by artist Val Lyle. The sculpture itself was installed Wednesday and is to be officially unveiled at a ceremony scheduled for 3 p.m. Friday.

A big piece of Santa Train history will be on display behind the CSX Depot. Train enthusiasts and Santa Train sentimentalists can view the recently restored Clinchfield 100 train car. The 100 served as Santa’s “sleigh” on the Santa Train from the early 1950s to the early 1980s and has been restored to its Clinchfield Railroad colors. Tours will not be provided due to safety regulations, but onlookers can get a great peek at this historic relic.

Santa and special guest Ricky Skaggs will disembark from the Santa Train when it pulls into town and take to the Santa’s Depot Stage for a special performance.

All activities are free to children, but due to turnout, organizers can’t guarantee that each child will get to participate in each activity.

Event sponsors encourage all attendees to stay on Santa’s nice list:

• Only one activity passport will be granted per child.

• Activity passports will only be given to children who are present.

• Activities and treats are for children only.

• Be kind.

• Share.

• Be patient.

Food trucks will be onsite with specialty offerings available for purchase.

Kingsport’s Christmas Parade, hosted by the Downtown Kingsport Association, is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. on December 2. At its conclusion, the annual tree lighting at Church Circle will take place.

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