GREEN BAY (NBC 26) — Each year, the National Railroad Museum brings the classic Christmas story of the Polar Express to life.
“This is about our 15th year of hosting the event. When we built our Lenfesty center we wanted to have the community in for the holidays,” said the museum's director of education Bob Lettenberger.
The Polar Express is the museum’s biggest fundraiser of the year and has become a Christmas staple in Northeast Wisconsin with tickets selling out virtually every year. The museum has added capacity due to the popularity of the show.
This year, the museum will have 42 programs over the course of the show's 13-day run. In total, the museum is expecting over 13,000 attendees.
The Polar Express recreates every detail of the classic children’s book in real life, from the hot chocolate dance to a literal train ride to the North Pole. The show begins with a dramatic reading of the classic children’s book before the audience heads out to climb aboard their train.
“We go through the cold, dark forest, we pass through glacier gulch, we see the northern lights, there’s some hobos that sneak on to the train and then we arrive at the North Pole for a visit with Santa,” Lettenberger said.
Visitors can also expect to see some new details at this year’s show. One of the new features will be a recreation of the 'first gift of Christmas' scene.
"Just as Santa presents that first gift of Christmas, the elves roar their approval and the clock strikes midnight. Just like at the North Pole, the tree lights up and it’s that magical moment. Christmas has arrived,” Lettenberger said.
It’s a holiday tradition that wouldn’t be possible without the museum’s volunteers. The Polar Express is mostly volunteer-run, with 50 to 60 volunteers working each show. For the people who put on the Polar Express, putting a smile on families faces is what they look forward to most each year.
“Amongst all the other things I do in Polar Express, I’m one of our hobos on the train and to have that interaction with folks is so neat," Lettenberger said. "The traditional lines of stage and audience are gone. We as cast are right in there with our audience helping them immerse and experience the Polar Express.”
If you're attending this year's Polar Express Train Ride, face masks will be required for those aged two and older. For more information, you can visit nationalrrmuseum.org.