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Morning Sun
  • PATRICK'S PEOPLE: Grant Elliot is assistant to the head elf of the KCS Holiday Express

  • There’s just something about elves.



    “They’re like the Seven Dwarfs, each  has his or her own personality, but we’ve got a lot more than seven elves,” said Grant Elliot, assistant to the head elf of the Kansas City Southern Holiday Express.

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  • There’s just something about elves.
    “They’re like the Seven Dwarfs, each  has his or her own personality, but we’ve got a lot more than seven elves,” said Grant Elliot, assistant to the head elf of the Kansas City Southern Holiday Express.
    The elves, all volunteers, also have minds of their own, so managing them isn’t always so easy.
    “It’s like herding cats,” Elliot said during the train’s Wednesday visit to Pittsburg.
    It’s become a little easier since the elves embraced modern technology.
    “Texting really helps keep in touch with a large group of elves, especially when you’re at one end of the train and they’re at the other end,” Elliot said.
    Head elf is Willis Kilpatrick, KCS director of heritage operations, who has been with the train since its inception 12 years ago.
    “It was Willis who made the Holiday Express what it is today,” Elliot said. “I’m second in line in the chain of command for running the train. That means getting everything set up and getting the elves in position.”
    He said this is his ninth year working with Kilpatrick and his eighth  year on the Holiday Express.
    Local volunteers are invited to help  out when the train visits their town, and Elliot said there are about 30 who are going along for the entire trip. Pretty much all their time is spent on or near the train.
    “We all sleep in the Southern Belle, which pulls the train from city to city,” he said.
    The 2012 trip will end Sunday at Kansas City Union Station and, of course, preparations for the 2013 trip will begin soon after.
    We have volunteers working on the train all year round,” Elliot said. “They make changes in every car. I don’t mean they totally renovate them, but there’s a lot of detail in the cars and the details change.”
    Those details include a car filled with decorations, another with model trains running through miniature villages complete with movie theaters and skaters on frozen ponds. There’s also a car with stuffed Santas and ceramic Santa figurines. Even the Grinch has crept in here and there.
    Taking care of all this stuff and watching over visitors is a lot of work for the elves.
    “It’s all worth it when we see the smiles on the faces of the people going through the train,” Elliot said.
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