State College

Kids in State College catch a trolley ride to the North Pole

Children get in holiday spirit with light reading

The spotlight was on “The Polar Express,” writer and illustrator Chris Van Allsburg’s Caldecott Medal-winning children’s book about a boy who rides a magical train all the way to Santa’s hometown. Schlow Library and the Downtown State College Imp
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The spotlight was on “The Polar Express,” writer and illustrator Chris Van Allsburg’s Caldecott Medal-winning children’s book about a boy who rides a magical train all the way to Santa’s hometown. Schlow Library and the Downtown State College Imp

At two weeks out from Christmas, Santa already looked winded.

To be fair, this is a busy time of the year for him publicity-wise and life on the road intermingled with shopping mall pretzels has to get old after a while.

Sunday afternoon’s stint on the second floor of the State College Municipal Building must have come as a nice change of pace — even if it was kind of a working vacation.

Children formed a deep line to have their picture taken with jolly old St. Nick, still visibly excited from a short ride on a trolley that was pulling double-duty as an enchanted train car bound north.

For once in his life, Mr. Claus was saddled with second billing.

I just love reading to the children. I’m a retired kindergarten teacher and probably what I miss most is reading to the children.

Doyle Wilkerson

Instead, the spotlight was on “The Polar Express,” writer and illustrator Chris Van Allsburg’s Caldecott Medal-winning children’s book about a boy who rides a magical train all the way to Santa’s hometown.

Magical trains remain in perilously short supply, so instead Schlow and the Downtown State College Improvement District teamed up to make sure that local children received some of that famous North Pole hospitality

The festivities began in Schlow Centre Region Library, where children sat patiently on the carpet as Doyle Wilkerson read the story cover to cover.

“I just love reading to the children. I’m a retired kindergarten teacher and probably what I miss most is reading to the children,” Wilkerson said.

Wilkerson taught at Easterly Parkway Elementary for 37 years and has been with the Polar Express since it’s inception more than a decade ago.

I think the excitement of boarding a train, of going to the top of the world where all of the toys in the world are made, being chosen to be the first person to receive the first gift of Christmas…

Doyle Wilkerson

All of that experience has provided her with some insight into why youngsters continue to connect with the holiday tale.

“I think the excitement of boarding a train, of going to the top of the world where all of the toys in the world are made, being chosen to be the first person to receive the first gift of Christmas …” Wilkerson said.

After the story concluded, the first group of children proceeded outside, where a trolley was waiting in front of the library. Following a quick trip around the block, they disembarked at the Centre County bureau of Santa’s workshop inside the municipal building.

Each child received a coin, which they could use to pick from any number of toys. Cowboy hats, dolls, activity books — it was all fair game.

William Gartner, 7, opted to go with the space blaster because it came with both a blinking light and built-in sound effects. The extraterrestrials in his neighborhood now have one more reason to be afraid.

He enjoyed the trolley ride and toys but at the end of the day, William said that his favorite part of the whole experience was listening to the story at the library.

It’s a Christmas miracle.

Frank Ready: 814-231-4620, @fjready

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