HIGHGATE — More than 150 children boarded the Polar Express in Highgate this weekend, riding all the way to the North Pole before returning home with a sleigh bell and book for Christmas.

Hosted by the Highgate Library and Community Center for eight years running, the Polar Express brings magic back into the holidays for area children.

Librarian Liza Comiskey said with a boarding pass, children are able to get on the Polar Express at the library.

“The elves punch it with a snowflake punch,” she said. Comiskey said selectboard chair Sharon Bousquet and the school nurse volunteered to be elves this year.

“When it pulls out of the station, the train horn goes,” she said. The kids take a 10-minuted ride with Santa Claus around town before returning to the library, set up as the North Pole, Comiskey said.

Comiskey said first, Mrs. Claus reads The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg in the children’s library by the fire. She said all the children receive the bell of Christmas.

Then, the children move into the main room or ‘dining car’ for hot cocoa and cookies. Comiskey said on their way out, the children receive a present, a wrapped book.

She said the event was sold out this weekend, both Saturday and Sunday night. She explained the library began selling tickets in November. “It’s a pretty magical event,” she said.

“Everyone…you just hear such positive things about it,” said Comiskey. “And seeing the magic in the kids eyes makes all the planning and the decorating and the last minute stressing, trying to make it all perfect, worth it.”

Comiskey said the library will hold one more night of the Polar Express, this Saturday from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. She said there are very few boarding passes still available, but if one is interested, to call the library at 802-868-3970.

For Highgate residents, the library asks families to donate $5. For out-of-town residents, the library asks for $10 to defray the costs, according to Comiskey.

“We also ask that families bring a canned item for our Operation Happiness food drive,” she said. Operation Happiness is a community-wide effort to help families in need during the holidays, providing them with food and toys.

“Last year I think we collected 176 pounds of food in those three nights,” said Comiskey. “So I can’t wait to weigh this year’s food because I’m pretty sure we’re going to surpass that.”

For more photos from this weekend’s event, pick up a copy of Monday’s Messenger or subscribe to our digital edition.