Look who’s com­ing to the Po­lar Ex­press

Woonsocket Call - - Front Page - By RUSS OLIVO ro­livo@woonsock­et­call.com

WOONSOCKET – Just as snowflakes were spot­ted across some parts of north­ern Rhode Is­land this week, the Black­stone Val­ley Tourism Coun­cil is poised to kick off the sea­sonal in­stall­ment of the Po­lar Ex­press train rides out of One De­pot Square – with help from a special guest from tele­vi­sion’s top tal­ent show, “The Voice.”

Vo­cal artist and city na­tive Emily Luther, a con­tes­tant on the lat­est in­stall­ment of the NBC-TV show, will be on hand as BVTC launches this sea­son’s Po­lar Ex­press runs on Fri­day. Tick­ets go on sale for two rides at 4 and 7 p.m., but Luther is ex­pected to ar­rive about 5:30 p.m., min­gle with vis­i­tors, sign au­to­graphs and, hope­fully, sing a hol­i­day tune or two, ac­cord­ing to Robert Billing­ton, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Pawtucket-based BVTC.

Billing­ton said BVTC was still wait­ing for of­fi­cial word from “The Voice” that Luther, a Woonsocket High School grad­u­ate, would be per­mit­ted to sing, but he said, “I think it would be very odd if she didn’t.” Luther her­self may have let the cat out of the bag on Twit­ter,

when she asked her fol­low­ers for re­quests for hol­i­day songs they’d like to hear. She didn’t say why.

“It’s ex­cit­ing for us,” said Billing­ton. “We thought the com­mu­nity might want to come out and we’re go­ing to have a lit­tle meet-and-greet. It’s go­ing to be tons of fun.”

The Po­lar Ex­press-themed train rides, named for the fa­mous chil­dren’s story about a Christ­mas­time trip to the North Pole – via rail, of course – is the BVTC’s only fundraiser of the year, said Billing­ton.

The ad­vo­cacy group for all things lo­cal in the Black­stone Val­ley, from bike­ways to busi­ness, the tourism coun­cil wouldn’t ex­ist with­out the Po­lar Ex­press, he said.

“It’s the only way we’re go­ing to op­er­ate through­out the year,” Billing­ton said. “It brings in the money that al­lows us to run and hire peo­ple. With­out the Po­lar Ex­press, our work would be very lim­ited. This year is par­tic­u­larly ex­cit­ing be­cause Emily Luther is do­ing so well on “The Voice.”

Warner Broth­ers owns the rights to au­thor Chris Van Alls­burg’s clas­sic hol­i­day story and all its mer­can­tile spinoffs, but BVTC has a li­cens­ing agree­ment with the com­mu­ni­ca­tions gi­ant that al­lows the non­profit agency to sell cloth­ing and other Po­lar Ex­press-themed goods from a gift shop that will run out of One De­pot Square through the hol­i­day sea­son, be­gin­ning on Fri­day.

Scores of vis­i­tors have been de­scend­ing on the city for many years for a chance to get in on the Po­lar Ex­press rev­elry.

The fam­ily fa­vorite comes to life with a three-hour event that in­cludes a 90-minute ex­cur­sion aboard a train with sto­ry­telling, sing-a-longs, games, cook­ies and hot choco­late served in a sou­venir mug. Of course, Santa Claus ar­rives to per­son­ally de­liver a gift to ev­ery child on board.

Rid­ers can show up an hour early to take ad­van­tage of photo op­por­tu­ni­ties us­ing cus­tom Po­lar Ex­press back­drops and char­ac­ters from the story, a chil­dren’s area with col­or­ing and let­ter-writ­ing to Santa, and the of­fi­cial Po­lar Ex­press gift shop. The his­toric train de­pot will be all decked out with hol­i­day dec­o­ra­tions for the af­fair.

Af­ter re­turn­ing to One De­pot Square from the North Pole, pas­sen­gers are in­vited to stay for a com­ple­men­tary photo with Santa. The give­aways are of­ten con­verted into Christ­mas cards that make for last­ing mem­o­ries, BVTC says.

This year’s trains run on Fri­days, Satur­days and Sun­days, start­ing this week­end and last­ing through Dec. 23. The jour­neys be­gin at the de­pot, One De­pot Square, op­po­site City Hall.

A word of cau­tion from BVTC, how­ever: get your tick­ets in ad­vance. Po­lar Ex­press rides of­ten sell out.

“The Black­stone Val­ley Po­lar Ex­press train rides have re­ceived much na­tional me­dia at­ten­tion and they’re noted for their unique liveper­son adap­ta­tions and in­ter­ac­tive ex­pe­ri­ences that bring the pop­u­lar chil­dren’s book story alive,” says Billing­ton.

For tick­ets and more in­for­ma­tion, con­tact 401-4951213 or go on­line to www.black­stoneval­ley­po­lar­ex­press.com.

Photo by Chris Has­ton/NBC

Emily Luther, a singer and Woonsocket na­tive who ap­peared this sea­son on NBC’s ‘The Voice,’ will be a special guest at this year’s kick-off event for the Black­stone Val­ley Po­lar Ex­press, which takes place Fri­day.

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