State College

‘Polar Express’ reading draws record number of families

Wayne Britten reads “The Polar Express” to children and their families Sunday at Schlow Centre Region Library.
Wayne Britten reads “The Polar Express” to children and their families Sunday at Schlow Centre Region Library.

More than 2,500 people visited the Schlow Centre Region Library over the past two weekends to experience a reading of Caldecott Medal-winning children’s book, “The Polar Express.”

After the reading of the popular novel in the library, kids and their families were ushered outside for a brief trolley ride around downtown State College. The trolley transported them to the State College borough office, which is adjacent to the library. After they arrived to the second floor, the children were invited to take a photo with Santa and could exchange a gold coin to spend at Santa’s workshop.

Pencils, coloring books and figurines from “Frozen” were among the items for which children could exchange their coin.

Paula Bannon, the head of children’s services at the library, said that the attendance total did not include the final day of readings on Sunday. Irene Miller, the executive director of the Downtown State College Improvement District, said that a record number of kids visited Santa’s workshop this year. On Saturday, Miller said that 387 children turned in their gold coin, which was a record for at least 10 years. Heading into the final session Sunday afternoon, there were 962 children who participated.

Both Bannon and Miller expressed that many families have been coming back every year in what has become a tradition for some. Families were invited to preregister for the event beginning at 9 a.m. Nov. 28. Miller said that all four sessions across both weekends were sold out by 11 a.m.

Jackie Mylet and Jeff Mylet were among those to preregister, and brought their 17-month-old son.

“I had a friend text me and say, ‘Make sure you call the library now,’ and I did. It went smoothly. We thought it was really well organized and really cute. We loved the free picture with Santa,” Jackie Mylet said.

While the Mylet family was participating for the first time, Jason Whitney said that this was the seventh year that he and his family have been a part of the event.

“It’s a State College tradition. My daughter loved it and now my son, who is five years younger, is enjoying it, too. They enjoy it in different ways,” Whitney said. “It’s a great way to get out and enjoy the holidays. It’s a great family activity and it’s one of the really great thing that the library does for our community.”