"Are you an elf?"
I was sitting in the North Pole in Lincoln, NH, with pajama-clad children and their parents, taking part in the Polar Express Event. I looked down into the big brown eyes of a young boy, waiting patiently for an answer.
"Ah, no," I said, confused. "It's the red coat," his mom whispered. I looked up front where the real elves where lined up, and sure enough - they all had red jackets. All I lacked was a Santa hat.
My little friend didn't seem to be disappointed that he was sitting next to a regular person, and I was glad. I found out that his name was Aidan, he was four years old, and he was here with his folks, his sister and her friend.
Our trip had begun at the Hobo Railroad Station in Lincoln. As I approached the train, I could feel the excitement and hear the children's anticipation. Children of all sizes, shapes, and ages filled the seats of the railroad car, spilling out of the seats, drinking hot chocolate as "rich as melted bars", talking excitedly.
Looking for Santa
At the North Pole, we disembarked and walked up to a building, led by elves. Inside the building, the buzz died down as a man dressed in a purple bathrobe came on stage. He began to read The Polar Express© as photos from the book flashed on a screen behind him. I was surprised at how quiet it got, especially since most of the children had probably read, or listened to the story many times before. Even little Aidan listened intently, rarely taking his eyes off the stage.
After the book, the silence disappeared quickly as Santa showed up.
Santa was a rascal, teasing a man about growing up so quickly, and joking with the kids. When he caught me taking notes, he asked, "Are you just making out your Christmas list now? You're a little late!”
Luckily, he told me that I could still mail it in.
In the book, the main character is chosen to receive the first gift and he requests a bell from the reindeer's harness. Every child received a bell on the ride back to the station.
After the show, people walked back to the train, again escorted by cheerful elves with lanterns.
The train ride back was quieter. Some kids fell asleep, some waved to the elves out the windows, some were still excited about the experience. Parents, many also dressed in pajamas and robes, talked among themselves. Several held sleeping children. All too soon we pulled into the station. The event was over, but I bet those children will remember the trip for the rest of their lives.
Friendly volunteers wave from the train.
The Polar Express© is a book written by Chris Van Allsburg and published by the Houghton Mifflin Company. The Polar Express Event is a fund-raising project of The Believe in Books Literacy Foundation. The event takes place at two locations in New Hampshire - at the Hobo Railroad in Lincoln and North Conway Village.
Tickets are limited and available through a lottery or with packages through lodging sponsors. For information on obtaining tickets, see:
For more information, visit: The Polar Express.