MANCHESTER - With dancing elves, smiling faces and visits from Santa and Mrs. Claus, this year's Elf Express provided thousands of passengers a voyage into holiday cheer.

Based on the story of Christopher Pop-In-Kins, Santa's favorite elf who "pops" in children through out the year, the train ride included a visit from Santa, snacks and reading Christopher's story. Flora Johnson, a writer from Ohio, originally created the character of Christopher for her own children, before writing a book and creating the dolls for others.

This is the second time the Manchester Lion's Club hosted the event. Bruce Charbonneau, a Lion's Club member and one of the train conductors for the event said seeing the children's smiling faces is his favorite part of the event.

Santa hopped aboard the Elf Express last weekend, along with several thousand other riders, to savor some holiday season cheer.
Santa hopped aboard the Elf Express last weekend, along with several thousand other riders, to savor some holiday season cheer. (Andrew McKeever photo)

"When they become so mesmerized by the elves and Santa, I'll never tire of it," he said.

Part of why the event is such a success, Charbonneau said, was in part due to the hard work of Neil Post, the event organizer. The money raised from the event will go towards a variety of Lion's Club projects, including their work helping people get glasses, hearing aids and supporting the local food cupboards.

Post said the event was totally successful. He said all the train cars were packed and some were even crammed full of people.

"Given the weather and the mud [the event] was a total success," he said. "I've heard zero complaints."

Rain fell throughout the weekend, but that failed to deter the large numbers of riders and ticketholders.

Eileen Zazzaro from Shaftsbury brought her grandchildren, ages seven and three to ride the train. She said the elf express looked like it was going to be a lot of fun. Plus, she liked that the proceeds went back to the Lion's club and their work in the community .

"I'm really looking forward to the entertainment, I think there will be dancing elves," she said.

Each train car had entertainment provided by a group of elves. Rennes Gerenser, Elsa Bean and Christie Duke are Burr and Burton Academy students who played one of the groups of elves on the train. Bean said she really liked the experience because this kind of performing will help her get other entertainment jobs at places like Disney World. Gerenser and Duke both said they loved to perform for the children on the train ride.

"I grew up in theater and making the kids happy is really fun," Duke said. "It really gets me in the Christmas spirit."

The elves passed out hot cider and cookies, performed skits and songs and helped read aloud Christopher Pop-In-Kins story. They also greeted Santa and signed copies of the book for the children on the train.

Dave Pardo of the Lions Club checks his watch to make sure the Elf Express trains run on time.
Dave Pardo of the Lions Club checks his watch to make sure the Elf Express trains run on time. (Andrew McKeever photo)

Each child got a copy of Christopher Pop-In-Kins Pops In, as well as a conductor's hat.

Cooper, a four year old on the train, told Holly, the elf played by Bean, that he had a really good time.

When she asked what he wanted from Santa for Christmas, he told her "a hot rod."