After a one-year absence from Eastern Jackson County, the Kansas City Southern’s Annual Holiday Express will make stops in Blue Springs and Grain Valley just before Christmas.

Now that Thanksgiving is over, it’s time for Christmas.

In Blue Springs, that means two things: the lighting of the Mayor’s Christmas tree and the Santa Train.

After a one-year absence from Eastern Jackson County, the Kansas City Southern’s Annual Holiday Express will make stops in Blue Springs and Grain Valley just before Christmas.

The train will arrive in Blue Springs on Dec. 21 after making stops in Grain Valley on Dec. 19 and in Kansas City at Union Station from Dec. 16-18.

The event brings back a popular tradition for the area after a hiatus last year.

The train will arrive in the downtown Blue Springs at about 4 p.m. Until then, children and parents can enjoy refreshments and a Santa’s workshop in the Public Safety Service Building in the police department’s headquarters, a change from the past.

The train, popular with families, has its roots in this area. In 2000, Kansas City Southern employees pitched in to revive the express.

The event is sponsored by the Blue Springs Parks and Recreation Department and the Downtown Alive! group, which was formed this year in an effort to revitalize the downtown area.

The railroad runs the express every year between Thanksgiving and Christmas and has to alter the route from year to year to get to all of the areas where it operates, from Kansas City east to Illinois and south to Texas and Louisiana. Last year, points east of Kansas City got left out.

The train started in Texas on Thanksgiving and will work its way north, including a Dec. 9 stop in Joplin.

The express features a smiling tank car named “Rudy,” a flatcar with Santa’s sleigh and reindeer, a gingerbread boxcar, the elves’ workshop, the reindeer stable and a red caboose.

At each of the stops, the KCS Charitable Fund donates gift cards to the local Salvation Army to provide warm clothing and other necessities for children. Over the years, contributions from employees, vendors and other donors have totaled nearly $1 million.

On Dec. 6, Mayor Carson Ross will host the annual lighting of the Christmas tree in front of City Hall.

The event starts at 5:30 p.m. Free refreshments will be served, and there will be an appearance by Santa Claus. Entertainment will be provided by local school singing groups and some speakers.

Call City Hall at 816-228-0110 for more information.