One bootie at a time, an army of elves embark on the Santa Train and welcome aboard hundreds of families. "It's chaos, but fun. I mean, it's intended for kids, so it's definitely over the top," said passenger Shannon Pytlik.
Over-the-top singing and dancing begins even before the train leaves the station. Though the 30 minute ride will transport the tots to the North Pole, Catamount Radio's Debbie Grembowicz and Glenda Hawley said the concept began four years ago as a way to bring more tourists to downtown Rutland. "We decided to do Santa Train because of the economic benefit. It can bring down to Rutland," Grembowicz said.
"The things happening in downtown Rutland this time of year -- everything blended together nicely and it just worked," Hawley said.
Parents say buying the tickets -- which are $10 for kids and $22 for adults -- is a fair price to pay to see the joy of Christmas on their children's faces.
"We'll remember them being so little and so excited about Christmas and Santa Claus long after they've moved out of the house. They'll have no idea they ever came here I'm sure. So it's more for us than for them in the long run," said Stacy Oxley of Rutland.
Once the train reaches Santa's Village, passengers are greeted by Mrs. Claus, who delivers the news that Santa accidentally went to Rutland to meet them, instead. Understandable, the elves say, given how busy he is this time of year.
For some it's a roundtrip ride they can see becoming a yearly tradition. "We tried to come last year and it sold out, so we figured this year we'd try to bring the kids. We just thought it would be fun. They don't get on trains very often here in Vermont," Pytlik said.
Though the ride sold out last year, organizers say this year ticket sales were down. A schedule shift may be in store for 2013. "I have to say that this year is a slower year than usual. The first year we only did one train. The last few years we've done two trains. We might go down to one train next year. We'll see," Grembowicz said.
While Catamount is already focusing on next year, for the boys and girls who finally found Santa, they're sights are set on December 25th.
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