‘Polar Express’ Comes to Life in Chester Program

CHESTER – Chester children took a ride to the North Pole last Friday in the final days before Christmas as they boarded the Polar Express in a Chester Public Library nighttime story hour at Stevens Memorial Hall.
On Thursday, Dec. 19, at 6:30 p.m. the lights had been dimmed, the hall largely illuminated by a white-lighted Christmas tree on stage, a ticket booth set out and tickets ready for each child to ride the northbound train. As the kids came up the stairs and entered the hall, a tall, bearded conductor in a suit and hat pulled out his gold watch on a chain and told the pajama-clad kids how soon the train would be leaving before giving them their ticket.

A big black cardboard locomotive was situated next to the rugs and blankets at the head of the space and before the story began, kids played inside.
The story time was organized by the library, led by Emily Bradley. Together with her dad, Jeff Robbins, who played the part of the conductor, Bradley had all the kids enthralled with the Chris Van Allsburg book about the importance of believing. Both Bradley and head of youth services Diane Arrato Gavrish were dressed up in their PJs and bathrobes, matching their young listeners. Ashley Laro helped obtain and paint the big refrigerator boxes for the train. Also helping put together the event was Peter Nollette.
Bradley has done a Christmas-time reading of the book in the past at the library, but wanted to expand the program this year. And with more than 50 kids and their parents showing up for the event, it definitely needed a larger space.
Bradley read the story, but helping out were Robbins and Arrato Gavrish. Robbins spoke for the conductor of the train on its way to the North Pole and now and again blew the train whistle to set the ambience.
All the kids had their tickets punched before the story began, holding them up as the conductor came around.
“Where do you think we’re going to go?” asked Bradley.
More than one child called out, “The North Pole!”
The night was a great success for the library, and afterward some families milled around and enjoyed the hot chocolate and cookies downstairs.

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