Polar Express a hit in Aurora
They would have come anyway, but the placid weather Sunday was a bonus for the Noah family of Montgomery and hundreds of others who lined up to take a figurative ride to the North Pole.
"There's eight of us," said Tracey Noah, sporting Rudolph antlers and a big smile, while waiting with granddaughter Kaylee, 6, and other family members for a ticket at Blackberry Farm in Aurora. "We've been coming here for years. We wouldn't miss it. Ever."
Train rides around Lake Gregory are a popular feature during the regular season at the popular 54-acre Fox Valley Park District facility. But once a year, the little engine and three open cars are decorated in the spirit of the holidays and re-christened The Polar Express.
"It's usually a little bit of a wait but that's OK," said Noah's husband, Steve. "It's fun. They get the hot chocolate and everything — something for the Christmas spirit."
Laurie and Mark Kocour of Oswego brought their sons, Christopher, 4, and Peter, 6 to ride the express. They didn't say much when asked, but apparently liked the trip.
"We had to go twice," said Laurie Kocour. "One time was not enough."
There was plenty of seasonal spirt as well. The gift shop was packed and kids lined up to see Santa at the Huntoon House, a Victorian museum.
A sleigh replaced the anvil in the blacksmith shop and dozens of little ones filled the antique desks at the Old Schoolhouse for continuous readings of "The Polar Express," the 1985 children's book about a boy who takes a magical ride through forests and over mountains "that scraped the moon" en route to the North Pole.
This was the second and final weekend for the event at Blackberry Farm. About 700 paid the modest admission on Saturday and a similar number was expected Sunday, despite shortened hours due to renovations and improvements that will include a shelter for live entertainment, an adventure play area and a boathouse shelter/pavilion on the lakeshore.
"It really is based on the weather," Sandy Smith, facilities supervisor for the park district, said of Polar Express attendance. "We were saying, 'The Bears are playing (a late game), we'll be slow.' But obviously not."
Mary Swanberg of Sugar Grove joined her daughter Bonnie Oury of West Chicago and her two kids for a first-time visit to Blackberry Farm.
"It's a great family thing and it wasn't expensive. There aren't that many places to go these days for $4 that offer so many things," she said. "We love Christmas."
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