A scene from last year’s Polar Express train ride. Staff are looking to launch this year’s popular holiday tradition on Nov. 28th. Independent file photo

A scene from last year’s Polar Express train ride. Staff are looking to launch this year’s popular holiday tradition on Nov. 28th. Independent file photo

There are a few changes to this year’s Polar Express – a tradition through Alberta Prairie Railway

“All of the trips are listed on the web site and the times - we still have 27 individual trips scheduled”

As with so much in society this year, there are a few changes to this year’s version of The Polar Express – a holiday tradition through Alberta Prairie Railway.

Staff were all set to launch the magical Christmastime experience this coming weekend of Nov. 21st-22nd, but newly-announced pandemic restrictions from the Province have forced a delay in those plans.

”Although we are confident that the measures we have in place would keep everyone safe, (the) announcement suspending dance and performances for 14 days would mean that this important aspect of THE POLAR EXPRESS™ Train Ride would be missing and rather than disappoint we have decided it would be best to invite guests to join us on any one of the remaining 27 performance dates and times,” noted a release.

“We are devastated that this happened and will do our best to make things right for people.”

Manager Bob Willis said the added restrictions meant that the ride wouldn’t have been able to have any entertainment as well. “No singing, no dancing and no performance – and that is not what Polar Express is all about,” he explained.

Looking ahead, the added restrictions are in place until Nov. 27th so plans are to launch the Polar Express, as planned, on Nov. 28th instead.

In the meantime, Willis explained the changes that have been put into place to keep folks safe during their ride on the Polar Express.

“First of all, it involves social distancing which isn’t that difficult for us to do physically because we already reserve and assign seats,” he explained. “So if you were to book seats, there would be nobody sitting behind you, nobody sitting in front of you and no one sitting across the aisle. When you think about that, that means capacity is sliced,” he added.

But Willis emphasized that the special event is really such an important part of the holiday season.

“We are doing this for the community; we wanted some sense of normalcy – that something at least is going to be the same as it’s always been,” he said.

Willis said there will also be compulsory masking.

“We have determined that shields will work for those who, for medical reasons, couldn’t wear a mask,” he said.

“We will be masking people from the moment they step onto the property to the moment they leave. The only time they will not (wear a mask) will be when they are in their seats for the hot chocolate and whipped cream and enjoying a special cookie treat.

”That’s like being in a restaurant, so the masks can come off,” he said.

“All of the staff will also be masked at all times with one exception – Santa Claus. We just couldn’t see how we could ever have Santa Claus masked.

“We had to figure out a way to do that – and here it is. Everyone else on the train for the entire journey will be masked. Santa won’t be able to fully integrate into the audience with the children but he will be able to interact with them,” he said, adding that proximity rules will of course be followed.

“We are also going to be fogging and disinfecting the entire train before, after and in between every (excursion). So we think that on the safety side, we are in good shape.

“We have thought about everything that could possibly go wrong and we have addressed it. We also sat down with Alberta Health officials here in Stettler, worked through this, and have come up with a darn solid plan,” he explained.

“The only disappointing thing is that we had to shut down this first weekend (Nov. 21st and 22nd). We are really quite taken aback by that, and didn’t want to do that. But one has to be cognizant of what’s going on around you – we want to be part of the solution, and not part of the problem,” he said.

In the meantime, Willis said that there are lots of further Polar Express dates in December as well.

“All of the trips are listed on the web site and the times – we still have 27 individual trips scheduled.”

Check out www.absteamtrain.com for more information or about booking a date, or call 403-742-2811. You can also call 1-800-282-3994.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A long-time Castor Resident is on the move. Luella Kowalsky, who has lived in the Town of Castor since 1977, is moving to an assisted living facility in Innisfail to be closer to family. Kevin J. Sabo photo
Long-time Castory resident Luella Kowalsky is leaving the community

Kowalsky will be closer to two of her kids, who live in the Sundre area

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, announced the province surpasses one million COVID-19 tests Friday. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
COVID-19: Central zone active cases up by 100 in last 24 hours

Most central Alberta communities under province’s enhanced measures list

Paintearth Economic Partnership Society sponsors grief and loss workshop in Castor

Jeremy Allen, a funeral director in Provost, has over 15 years experience walking beside those are grieving

Free weight-management sessions offered online

Workshops offer safe, effective strategies to form positive food relationships

Kyle Charles poses for a photo in Edmonton on Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. Marvel Entertainment, the biggest comic book publisher in the world, hired the 34-year-old First Nations illustrator as one of the artists involved in Marvel Voice: Indigenous Voices #1 in August. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
VIDEO: Indigenous illustrator of new Marvel comic hopes Aboriginal women feel inspired

Kyle Charles says Indigenous women around the world have reached out

Russ and Luanne Carl are sharing about their experiences of fighting COVID-19 this past summer.
photo submitted
Stettler couple opens up about COVID-19 battle

Luanne and Russ Carl urge others to bolster personal safety measures amidst ongoing pandemic

This 2019 photo provided by The ALS Association shows Pat Quinn. Quinn, a co-founder of the viral ice bucket challenge, died Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020, at the age of 37. (Scott Kauffman/The ALS Association via AP)
Co-founder of viral ALS Ice Bucket Challenge dies at 37

Pat Quinn was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease, also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, in 2013

Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada David Lametti speaks with the media following party caucus in Ottawa, Tuesday, January 28, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Exclusion of mental health as grounds for assisted death is likely temporary: Lametti

Senators also suggested the exclusion renders the bill unconstitutional

Claudio Mastronardi, Toronto branch manager at Carmichael Engineering, is photographed at the company’s offices in Mississauga, Ont., Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020. As indoor air quality becomes a major concern in places of business, HVAC companies are struggling to keep up with demand for high quality filtration systems. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
Business is booming for HVAC companies as commercial buildings see pandemic upgrades

‘The demand right now is very high. People are putting their health and safety ahead of cost’

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speak to the media about the COVID-19 virus outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Long-awaited federal rent subsidy program for businesses hurt by COVID-19 opens today

The new program will cover up to 65 per cent of rent or commercial mortgage interest

Traffic crosses over the Lions Gate Bridge from North Vancouver into Vancouver on July 2, 2015. Motorists would have to pay a fee to drive into downtown Vancouver under the city's plan to slow climate change but one expert warns it could pose financial hardship for some. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vancouver’s climate plan ‘first 10 steps in a journey of 10,000,’ says expert

Almost 40 per cent of Vancouver’s carbon pollution comes from vehicles

Alberta has 1,910 active cases of COVID-19 as of Wednesday. Red Deer is reporting five active cases, with 108 recovered. (File photo)
After COVID-related transplant delays, 16-year-old N.S. girl gets lung transplant

‘This is the difficult time now of seeing Tahlia in ICU hooked up to 15 IVs and sedated’

Most Read