Choo! Choo! Children between 2 and 10 are invited to put on their snuggliest pajamas and climb aboard when the North Pole Express makes a stop in Longview.
Tickets are $7.50 per child and $5 per adult. Proceeds go toward a permanent home for the Longview World of Wonders, a children’s hands-on discovery center, which has a traveling event forum.
There is a lot of fun in this fundraiser. Like the children in the fantasy film “The Polar Express,” riders will have a story time, dancing, singing, and of course, hot cocoa.
The children will take an imaginary Christmas trip to the North Pole, see Santa and elves in a winter wonderland of snow-covered trees and glistening white lights. Santa will give each child a special bell necklace.
The brainchild of Karen Tutt, who is chairing the event for Longview WOW, the North Pole Express encourages imagination. Made up of paint and plywood, the train makes its approximate 35-minute trip without leaving the former Pine Tree ISD administration building — or moving, for that matter.
Even so, “The kids had a blast last year,” Tutt said of Longview WOW’s first North Pole Express.
Tutt said she brought the event to Longview because a couple of years ago her sons had so much fun on a polar train ride in Palestine.
“No, we don’t have the train, but I knew we could recreate the experience,” she said. “I thought it would be great if we could bring this experience to the children ... Not everyone is going to be able, or want to make a trip to Palestine ... I’m really proud of what we’ve done here.”
Longview WOW made about $5,000 this past year when about 1,200 people took advantage of the adventure, she said, and the event has room to accommodate 1,680 this year. Tickets can be purchased at www.longviewwow.org and also will be available at the door.
There are time slots set aside for day care, during which time rides will be $3 per child. Contact Jo Lee Ferguson at email@example.com for day care information.
Tutt, who is an adjunct faculty member at Kilgore College’s Early Childhood Department, said as a mom and an educator, having a children’s museum in Longview is a project close to her heart.
“I take my kids to (the children’s museum) in Shreveport and to Tyler, because there is nothing like hands-on experience to stimulate a developing mind and a life-long love of learning,” she said.
The children’s hands-on discovery center project is about two years into development and expects to have a home in one to three years.
According to Tutt, the average period from the time of organization to opening its doors takes about three and a half years, information she said she got from Washington D.C.-based Association of Children’s Museums.
The North Pole Express is hosted in partnership with the Pine Tree High School leadership class.
LongviewWOW received nonprofit status from the IRS this year, retroactive to September 2009.
The next adventure for LongviewWOW is the World of Battling Robots, one day each in February, March and April. The deadline to register for this event is January 14, also at www.longviewwow.org, and the cost is $55 per team member.
This event calls for the teams to create a robot that can overcome the opposing team. The robots are made from Lego pieces and a tiny motor.
Team members must work together to complete each mission.
Points are awarded on how well the robot performs. The underlying point in the competition is to get kids interested in math, science and technology.