The Polar Express – a holiday tradition from Alberta Prairie Railway – returns this Christmas season, but like so many elements of 2020, it will look a little different.
The magical experience was scheduled to open Nov. 21, but the province’s pandemic restrictions prompted a postponement.
“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,” organizers said in a release.
Manager Bob Willis said the added restrictions meant the ride wouldn’t have had any entertainment. “No singing, no dancing and no performance – and that’s not what Polar Express is all about.”
Current plans are to launch the Polar Express on Nov. 28.
Willis outlined additional plans to keep people safe. “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.”
People are also asked to wear a mask, or a shield for those who for medical reasons can’t wear a mask.
“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, noting that proximity rules will also 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.
In the meantime, many more Polar Express dates are scheduled in December as well. Visit absteamtrain.com for dates and times – 27 individual trips in all – or call
Alberta Prairie Railway is located in Stettler, Alberta, east of Red Deer on Hwy 12. The station and passenger loading area is located at 4611- 47 Ave. in Stettler.
Plan your adventures throughout the West Coast at westcoasttraveller.com and follow us on Facebook and Instagram @thewestcoasttraveller. And for the top West Coast Travel stories of the week delivered right to your inbox, sign up for our weekly Armchair Traveller newsletter!