All Aboard!

The North Pole of Texas gears up for another holiday season of free train rides and displays

By FAITH HUFFMAN | News-Telegram News Editor

Nov 29 , 2007 - If there were nominations for the Hopkins County family which best displays the spirit of Christmas, the Alan and Kim Screws family would get a lot of votes.

Staff Photo by Angela PItts

Alan Screws gets some help from neighbor Trey Thompson (right), a Pickton-Pine Forest volunteer firefighter, to set up a new addition to The North Pole of Texas, a 1969 fire engine, donated by Joe Ardis of Sulphur Springs. Those riding the Christmas Train through Santa's Toy Shop will find a firefighting elf and a North Pole Fire & Rescue engine this year. The Screws family started the North Pole of Texas 10 years ago, and attendance has grown every year, exceeding 8,000 people in 2006.

Alan and Kim, along with children Kinde, Justin, Jonathan and Aaron, annually host the North Pole of Texas, which offers free train rides from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. beginning this Friday, and continuing each Friday and Saturday through Dec. 22. Train rides will also be offered from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 20, Friday and Sunday, Dec. 23.

The annual event has grown every year to the point their family, neighbors and a variety of other community members joyfully donate their time to staff the celebration of love for the season and Christ.

And the help is welcomed — thousands of people journey to the site every year.

The origins of the North Pole of Texas go back to the 1997 and “Santa’s hayride,” which offered rides in a lighted trailer pulled by an old Jeep to about 200 of their family members, friends and church members.

�We received such a blessing that we wanted to make something bigger for the next year,� Kim Screws says. �Alan came up with the idea of building a train for children in our area to ride. Since then, the number of people has grown each year. Last year, we had over 8,000.�

The Screws family completed their first train, “Christmas Express,” in 1998, adding a stable depicting the Nativity scene. There was a trail in their front yard for the train.

Of course, being deep in the heart of dairyland, and then the owners of a dairy, there were cow cutouts in their front yard depicting cows dancing, singing and reading to their young.

In 2000, they got special permission for the county to build a bridge over the county road in front of their house to the dairy across the road so the train would have a path to run on without disrupting traffic. They also included a large sign with “Happy Birthday Jesus” in red and white Christmas lights on both sides of the bridge. 

�The large sign on the bridge that says �Happy Birthday Jesus� sums up the theme of the North Pole of Texas rather well,� Alan said. �The Nativity depicts the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, and serves as a reminder to celebrate his life as savior, lord of lords and king of kings.�

In 2001, Santa’s Toy Shop was added, showing elves hard at work with Santa on hand to greet children as the train progresses through the shop.

A second train was added in 2002, then a third in 2003, as well as a pond where elves could take a break in a paddle boat from toy making. In 2005, Kim opened her Hot Chocolate Factory, from which she offers a warm drink to all who wait

The original train has since been retired and is set up as place for families to take souvenir photos, and a fourth train has been built. Each of the trains holds approximately 20 to 24 people during the 15-minute ride through the North Pole of Texas. A Bethlehem Village was also added in recent years.

Each addition has a symbolic meaning

�The Toy Shop focuses on the joy and simple pleasures found in living,� Alan explained. �The Elf Pond reminds us to dream big and laugh. Kim�s colorful Hot Chocolate Factory provides a delightful sense of homemade warmth and comfort for all to enjoy. All the lights remind us of the beauty of Christmas and help us celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.�

Each year, local schools load children on buses for tours on the train to view the displays and literally thousands of Christmas lights. In addition to all of the Hopkins County and surrounding schools, this year Cooper and Chapel Hill have also already contacted the Screws family to get on schedule for a ride as well.

And, of course, there’s a new addition.

�This year we�ve got the North Pole Fire & Rescue. We had a fire engine donated to us. We put together an elf scene and truck with it,� Alan said Tuesday afternoon. �We have a few more lit up metal ornaments, chimneys with stocking, that kind of thing along the way.�

This year, Alan and Kim also hope to have a train ready to ride in Saturday’s Lions Club Christmas Parade, which begins at 10 a.m. at Buford Park in Sulphur Springs, as well as the Christmas parade in Mount Vernon, which begins at 2 p.m., then be back and ready to for riders at 6 p.m.

They’re also working on a video script, telling the reason they host The North Pole of Christmas each December, and the history behind each new addition as well as the original Christmas story.

�It talks about why we do it, the history of it, the reason for the season,� Alan said. �The main thing is to remind people the reason why we do it, what Christmas is all about.

�People often want to know why we offer train rides at the North Pole of Texas to the public free of charge. The reason is quite simple. It is a gift. This is a gift from our family to yours,� said Alan. �We humbly do this because God gave us the greatest gift of all, his son Jesus.�

�Each year we have had help from our family, church and friends to make the North Pole of Texas what it is today,� said Kim. �We do this as a gift to our community and therefore do not charge anything to ride

�Of course it�s gotten so big we have to have lots of help this time,� Alan said. �We could not do it without all of our sponsors and volunteers.�

The North Pole of Texas sponsors this year include New Beginnings Fellowship Baptist Church, Pizza Inn, City National Bank, ABC AutoPlex, EastTexas Line-X, Hopkins County Veterinary Clinic, Lone Star Milk, Alexander Tractor Parts, Farm Country, Brandon Gunn Plumbing, Dairy Queen in Mount Vernon, Allrounder Dairy, BC Sand & Gravel, Winnsboro Vet Clinic and Shawn and Abbi Massey.

Although the train rides are free, donations for local charities are accepted at Kim’s Hot Chocolate Factory. Also, anyone interested in volunteering as a caroler or participating in the live nativity scene can contact Screws at 903-866-3005, as no carolers are currently scheduled and some additional volunteers for the nativity are needed.

To find the North Pole of Texas, travel east on Interstate 30 from Sulphur Springs to the 136 exit in Weaver. Turn right on FM 269. Follow FM 269 for 4 miles until you reach Pine Forest. Turn left on CR 3310 at Betty's Store. (For those not familiar with the area, look for the North Pole of Texas sign on the left.) Continue on CR 3310 for about 2 1/2 miles. You will see the lights. Follow the path to the designated parking area.

From Winnsboro and Como, turn north on FM 3019 (Greenwood Road). Turn left on FM 3105. Turn right on the third oil road, which is CR 3385. The North Pole of Texas can be found 3/4 mile on the left.

More information about the North Pole of Texas, including directions and schedules, can be found online at www.northpoleoftexas.com.

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