Santa makes for a merry train ride from Seligman
Annual event benefits foster parent association this year
Of all the alternative ways a family could enjoy festive Christmas activities, a train ride topped the list for about 172 passengers on the Arkansas-Missouri Railway that traveled from Seligman to Exeter on Saturday.
The Santa Train, as it is locally known, has been traveling the tracks during the month of December for about eight years.
Not only does it provide an enjoyable, different activity for families, it's for a good cause.
"It's for our chamber," said Cleta Stanley, Seligman chamber president. "We get a percentage of ticket sales. It helps with our community building mainly. We have been remodeling it for about four years now. Most of our money goes to the building, and we're trying to get it paid off."
The train ride proceeds also benefit the foster parents association for Barry, Lawrence and Stone counties.
In the past, Stanley said the train went to Rogers, Ark., but this year, the chamber decided to go to Exeter.
"We're taking everyone to Exeter and Santa will be at the gazebo and give out a bag of treats," she said. "We think it's about the same distance as it was to Rogers."
The 30-minute route consists of a scenic, nostalgic train ride, hot chocolate, cookies, songs, candy and treats.
"The train is all decorated for Christmas," Stanley said. "Last year, we had to make two trips and took over 200 children."
This year, the train made three trips to accommodate all the children wanting to meet Santa and take ride a real train.
Routes were offered Saturday at 9 a.m., 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.
"We can take up to 250 passengers each trip," Stanley said.
The Santa train has proven to be very popular, as the 11 a.m. trip had 172 passengers alone.
Some of the most favorite parts of the train ride, according to passengers, were the hot chocolate, the singing, and of course, the visit from Santa.
"We enjoyed the singing," said Jill Mease, of Cape Fair, whose son, Lincoln, rode the train.
Mom Heather Brown, who brought 7-month-old Dawson Brown, of Stark City, said she thought the best part of the trip was the hot chocolate, and just been on a train.
"Our friends told us about it," she said.
Arkansas-Missouri Railways Conductor Jim Ingram, who handed out candy to passengers during the stop in Exeter when Santa boarded the train, said what he thought was best, above and beyond the hot chocolate and candy, is that all the families were really enjoying just spending quality time with each other.
"It's a great experience," he said.
After the 30-minute excursion in Exeter with Santa, the engine gave a whistle, and the train prepared to pick up steam and head back down the line to Seligman, where families deboarded not just with the contents of their goodie bags, but with good memories.