ANNA BOARINI, Manchester Journal
MANCHESTER -- The Elf Express and Christopher Pop-In-Kins are headed back to Manchester. This weekend, the trains will depart, the elves will perform and the smiles will be wide during the Lions Club’s fundraising event.
Neil Post, a Lion’s Club member and one of the event organizers said this is the second year for the event. The idea came to the club when they saw other Polar Express and train rides with Santa, he said.
"It seemed to make sense and last year was an overwhelming success," Post said.
The ride departs the rk Miles Depot Station Saturday, Dec. 21 and Sunday, Dec. 22 at 10 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 1 p.m., 2:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. The Saturday morning train rides are already completely sold out, he said.
This year, a new feature of the train ride will be original performances by the elves, said Post. They will be played by students and members of the Burr and Burton Academy dance and theater program, under the direction of Jim Raposa, of the school’s performing arts department. There will be other surprises along the one hour trip, but Post said he did not want to reveal them prematurely.
According to a Web site the Lions Club established to promote the event, refreshments will be served on the excursion train, which will travel back and forth between Manchester and Arlington. Santa and Mrs. Claus will also be going along for the ride.
A special "Find the Elf" contest has also been underway since Nov. 29.
A special elf will be hiding in several area businesses, and when spotted by a customer, a special form is checked off. The top winners will be determined by who finds the most number of elves. The first place finisher will receive a $200 gift card, with the next four top finishers receiving $100 gift cards each. The contest runs through Dec. 24, and winners will be notified by Friday, Jan. 6. forms may be obtained at the Manchester and the Mountains Regional Chamber of Commerce office on Bonnet Street, or downloaded from the web site - www.manchesterlionselftrain.com.
A big portion of the trip is dedicated to the Christmas elf Christopher Pop-In-Kins. According to Flora Johnson, a woman from Ohio who was the originator of the fictional character, he pops in on children to play hide and seek. On Christmas Eve, he returns to his place at the North Pole to let Santa know all about his friends and the adventures he has had.
The story of the little elf was first written by Johnson in 1984. In 2006, Brian Bradway, a professional illustrator, joined the team and help give Christopher an updated look.
"My thought was, I would like to see Christopher sitting on a shelf in a store next to Mickey Mouse or Garfield and not look out of place," he said. "I didn’t want to commercialize him, but instead move him to more of a world stage."
Bradway said after his design was released in 2008, he only received one negative comment and the woman decided she would use her original Christopher Pop-In-Kins, but give out the new version of the doll. He said his favorite part of being involved in the project has been seeing how people integrate the elf into their holiday traditions.
"My wife actually showed me a photo from Facebook of an infant placed in Christopher’s lap," he said. "It’s really heartwarming...to see something you created, you can’t put a price on that."
Bradway and his wife brought their three children to ride the Elf Express last year and said they will miss the event this winter. He said they enjoyed not only seeing the character he helped modernize, but also spending time in town.
Ticket sales are closed online, but they can still be purchased at The Manchester and The Mountains Chamber of Commerce. Tickets cost $25 for adults, $20 for children 12 and under and children under two are free. Tickets may be available the day of the rides, but they cannot be guaranteed. For more information about the event, it can be found online at manchesterlionselftrain.com.