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The Polar Express Returns to Downtown State College

As Downtown State College prepares for the holiday season, the Schlow Centre Region Library and the Downtown Improvement District are working together to prepare for the annual Polar Express event. A tradition since the 1990’s, families from the Centre Region and beyond come together for a reading of The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg, the award-winning holiday story about a boy’s magical journey to the North Pole. After listening to the story, each child receives a bell symbolizing the magic of Christmas, and a gold coin to spend before boarding Downtown State College’s very own Polar Express to take a trolley ride through the town and visit Santa’s workshop! Inside Santa’s workshop, children can have their pictures taken with Santa and exchange their gold coins for items from the workshop.  In addition, they can decorate a frame for their photo with Santa.

Anita Ditz, head of Children’s Services at the library, has been involved with the event since its inception over 15 years ago when the Children’s Department in the old library was no more than a small area with a love seat surrounded by bookshelves. The immediate popularity of the event put a great strain on the space.  Fortunately the library was expanded in 2005, and the new facility more easily accommodates the large amount of people that attend every year. This past year, 2,260 people experienced the Downtown Polar Express. “This event has become a family tradition for many,” Anita says. “People start calling in September to see when they can register for the event.” One year, Anita met a mom who brought her kids from outside of the Centre Region saying her kids made her come because she did not take them last year and they made sure she didn’t forget.

Lisa Maras attended the event with her children every year for a decade! Her youngest child attended the event for the last time as a participant two years ago, and her older daughter, who is now 14 years old, has participated as a volunteer elf in Santa’s Workshop. When asked what the kids’ favorite part of the event was, Lisa explained that it was walking into the workshop and admiring all the trinkets and gifts that were there for the kids. “It was fun to watch them enjoy the magic of [the story],” she said. Lisa always made sure she was one of the first people to sign up for the Downtown Polar Express.  “It has a magical feel to it and is a special event that is different from a movie or anything.”

This FREE event will held on December 5,6,12, and 13, 2015. Details can be found on the Downtown Event Page HERE or on Schlow Centre Region Library’s website HERE.  Registration for this year’s event can be made in person or over the phone at the Schlow Centre Region Library starting December 1, 2015 at 9 a.m.