Nearly 1,400 brave cold for Holiday Express|[12/04/06]

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 4, 2006

With temperatures matching the North Pole’s, fewer people bundled up Sunday afternoon to see Santa and his Holiday Express than in years past when it rolled into Vicksburg.

But the 1,377 people who stood in the cold seemed to enjoy it anyway.

&#8220It’s not something we can do all the time,” said Amy Reed of Clinton, who took her 2-year-old daughter, Emily, and 7-year-old son, Joshua, to see the train on Levee Street near the Yazoo Diversion Canal.

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&#8220It’s fun,” she said.

The annual treat of Kansas City Southern railroad cars decked out with holiday decorations and goodies drew children, young and not-so-young. About 2,000 toured the train last year, said Doniele Kane, a KCS spokesman.

Six-year-old Tyler Boyd, who waited in the long, curved line with his mother, Loletha Boyd of Vicksburg, said he was almost too cold to think of what he would tell Santa.

The temperature measured in the mid-40s, but with 18 mph winds, it felt like the mid-20s.

Santa greeted his young fans in the first of six cars, three of which showcased everything from the elves’ workshop to two huge model train sets. In at least one of the four years when the train visited Vicksburg, it was reported to draw the largest number of its 23 stops.

So far this year, nearly 20,000 children have put in their wishes in six states. At each stop, KCS has made a contribution of Wal-Mart gift cards to the local Salvation Army to provide clothing for children in need. This is the eighth year the train has set out on its Christmas mission.

Collin DeRossette, 7, who went through the elaborate cars with his 11-year-old sister, Blake, his 8-year-old brother, Ross, and their father, Matt DeRossette, was one of many who went just for the trains.

&#8220It’s fun because I get to see this little train set,” he said before boarding.

Once he was there, he was able to fit in a visit with Santa, telling him he would like a shell shocker, a remote control operated device, for Christmas. His sister, however, had a taller order.

&#8220World peace,” Blake said at Santa’s request for her Christmas wish.

&#8220I think Santa can help with that,” he said without hesitation.

The cold weather was definitely part of the fun for the Kelly family. Twelve-year-old Ethan Kelly, 9-year-old Lucy Kelly and 7-year-old Ayla Whitehead, were getting in the holiday spirit, said Debra Kelly of Vicksburg.

&#8220I wanted them to experience this part of Christmas,” she said. &#8220The cold weather helps you get into the spirit.”

The Holiday Express was pulled by KCS’ Southern Belle. The six-car seasonal masterpiece included a smiling tank car called &#8220Rudy”; a flat car carrying Santa’s sleigh, reindeer and a miniature village; a gingerbread box car; the elves’ workshop; the reindeer stable; and a little red caboose.