The rising cost of rail travel means Santa will be relying solely on eight tiny reindeer to get him to and from Naperville this Christmas season.
The Naperville Jaycees announced Wednesday the cancellation of the annual Santa Train event that traditionally has taken hundreds of Naperville-area children and their families to the North Pole (which looks much like Brookfield) and back on a magical train ride with Santa and his elves.
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Jaycees President Kevin Piket said the decision to cancel the event was a difficult one.
"For the past several years, the cost of hosting the event has gone up while the number of folks who buy tickets has consistently gone down," Piket said Wednesday. "Last year we ran the trains, even with a low turnout and we lost money. We just can't afford to do that two years in a row."
Piket said the program cost more than $15,000 to operate last year and prices were expected to increase again this year.
"This is an event for families and children so the cost needs to remain low," Piket said. "But at that price, we couldn't find a way to make this an affordable event for all of the families in our community."
Piket said he thinks the declining participation is a reaction to people having fewer dollars to spend around the holidays and more free activities throughout the community.
The program, however, was never short of volunteers. Piket said as many as 50 looked forward to helping every year.
"We appreciate all that they've done to make this a great family tradition," he said. "They're as disappointed as anyone."
Piket said Jaycees members already have begun planning options to return the program next year at a reduced cost, likely by partnering with another community.
"We'll find a way to get it done next year, but for now we're moving forward and shifting our energy and focus into our other events," he said.