Polar Express whisks families away to North Pole

Polar Express whisks families away to North Pole



It was wrapped in an apron of steam. Snowflakes fell lightly around it. A conductor stood at the open door of one of the cars. He took a large pocket watch from his vest, then looked up at my window. I put on my slippers and robe. I tiptoed downstairs and out the door.

“All aboard,” the conductor cried out. I ran up to him.

“Well,” he said, “are you coming?”

“Where?” I asked.

“Why, to the North Pole of course,” was his answer. “This is the Polar Express.”

— “The Polar Express,” Chris Van Allsburg

Families are invited to pull on their own slippers, robes and favorite pajamas on Dec. 23 to attend a showing of the beloved holiday movie “The Polar Express” at the Walton Arts Center.

“It’s a movie that you don’t get to see on the big screen very often. And we’ve made it into a full experience,” reveals Jennifer Wilson, WAC public relations director.

For the fourth consecutive year, the arts center will host a showing of the 2004 animated film that follows a young boy who is whisked away on an incredible trip to the North Pole with a train full of other excited children. Along the way, they are treated to a spirited song-and-dance number about delicious hot chocolate; experience some intense action as the train speeds to the top of a steep mountain and zooms across a frozen lake; and finally reach the magical North Pole, surrounded by Santa’s helpers celebrating the successful completion of their year’s work.

“Since the renovation, we take quite a bit of pride in our lobby decor, so we usually have a pretty extensive window display underneath our staircase,” explains Nick Zazal, director of events and patron services at WAC. “People come and take pictures with their family — it becomes more of an event than just going to the movies.”

That festive atmosphere and movie-going experience is further enhanced by free hot chocolate, the encouraged PJs and a visit from the head elf himself. Santa will be in the lobby to chat with families for an hour prior to the film.

“Typically, I find myself behind the hot chocolate table,” Zazal shares. “So, for me, it’s always funny when the kids come up and they’re like, ‘You mean it’s free hot chocolate?’

“And then they ask, they’re very careful about, ‘Well, can I put marshmallows in it too?’” he adds, imitating the children’s amazement. “And then you’ve got their parents behind them giving you the hand signal like, ‘Don’t give him any marshmallows! No sugar!’ So that’s always entertaining.”

“It’s also fun for adults to act like kids and kids just to get to have fun being comfortable and being kids,” Wilson concludes.



‘Polar Express’

WHEN — 7 p.m. Dec. 23

WHERE — Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville

COST — $10

INFO — 443-5600, waltonartscenter.org



Photos First,

Then Gifts

The holiday display in the window under the Walton Arts Center lobby’s large staircase differs every year and is designed with the aim of providing the perfect backdrop for many a photo.

This year’s display features toys and games donated from the Walmart Museum in Bentonville and the Daisy Airgun Museum in Rogers, with a few ties to the venue’s most recent Broadway show, “A Christmas Story: The Musical.”

“A lot of them are retro toys, so it looks like it’s a storefront with Christmas toys set up,” shares Jennifer Wilson, public relations director.

The toys were gifted to the WAC for the display, and immediately after the showing of “The Polar Express,” the arrangement will be taken down so that venue staff can deliver all the toys to the nonprofit Marine charity Toys For Tots first thing on Christmas Eve morning.



Giving Back

Thanks to a new partnership between the Walton Arts Center and NWA Books for Kids, the WAC will host a holiday book drive during the Dec. 23 showing of “The Polar Express,”as well as the Dec. 22 SoNA performance of “The Snowman: A Family Concert.”

Both classic films are based on beloved children’s books, and the venue had been looking for an appropriate time to work in collaboration with the organization, Wilson says. NWA Books for Kids provides books to children in need, seeks to foster a love of reading in children and encourages time spent reading together with parents.

“It’s a great way to bring your kids to either one of these shows and talk about the importance of Christmas and that it’s about giving just as much as it’s about receiving, and giving to kids who are in need,” she suggests.

All donated books will be re-distributed by NWA Books for Kids to nonprofit organizations throughout the area that directly serve disadvantaged families.

INFO — nwabooksforkids.org

Categories: Family Friendly