This Christmas character will play a leading role in a new holiday fund-raising event that will be coming to the Northshire the weekend of Dec. 15-16. A train excursion set to shuttle back and forth between Arlington and Manchester will feature the merry elves and a few of his associates, like Santa and Mrs. Claus. The charitable event is being sponsored by the Manchester Lions Club.
Passengers aboard the train will be entertained by melodies and dance routines by the elves of the theater and dance program of Burr and Burton Academy.
Jim Raposa, theater and dance teacher at Burr and Burton Academy, was contacted by the Manchester Lions Club last year to see if they wanted to be involved in the event. Since then, Raposa has prepared the music, wrote the original script, and found a cast of 20 BBA students. Those students have been rehearing 12 hours per week for six weeks to learn the script and the choreography along with the music. However, they will only be able to have one dress rehearsal on the train the Friday before the event.
The cast has already created the music tracks that they will be singing along to during the event to help keep the cast on cue throughout the long event.
The train travels from Manchester to Arlington and back again with multiple train departures per day at 10 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 1 p.m., 2:30 p.m., and 4 p.m. As of press time, the 10 a.m. Dec. 15 train tickets, as well as those for the 1 p.m. train on Dec. 16, have already been sold out.
Another addition to this Elf Express train is the "find the elf contest." The object of the contest is to find Christoper Pop-in-kin's hiding in stores around Manchester from Dec. 1 to Dec. 24. Prizes are awarded to the winners. In order to participate a contestant must visit the Elf Express Web site at manchesterlionselftrain.com and print out the contest sheet, then visit Manchester merchants listed and fill it out.
So, where did this idea for an Elf Express come from?
"It was a question of trying to come up with a new fundraiser," said Gary Van Siclen, past president of the Manchester Lions Club. "We explored doing a polar express but the cost was kind of prohibitive and White River objected to us having one because they currently run it."
"We also explored Elf on the Shelf, but they were not very cooperative and we talked with pop-in-kin's and they have been very cooperative because this is the first train ride for elves in the country."
"The response from the community here has been exceptional," he added.
The Elf Express event is a part of the Manchester Merriment, which is a six week long process that help promote businesses in the area during the holiday season and provides Manchester with the holiday spirit.
"We kick off with the tree lighting. We have our Inn tours and people love to see how Inns are decorated during the holidays. Every Saturday there is a wine tasting at a different location. We have horse and wagon rides that leave from Orvis," said Berta Maginniss, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce. "We try and promote our shopping destination. There are a lot of people that don't like to go to big malls. You can spend a great day hear."
The Chamber of Commerce has collaborated with the Lions Club to get the Elf Express up and running. The Chamber and the Lions Club also work together in collaboration with the Maple Leaf Half Marathon, which has led to some of the success of the Elf Express.
The Chamber of Commerce is holding an open house for the public to come and see the new visitor's center located on Bonnet Street on Sunday, Dec. 16.