The Star-Herald

Wintergreen Express returns to connect Presque Isle with ‘North Pole’

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — The ringing of the Wintergreen Express’s bell called families to climb aboard on a journey to the “North Pole” over the weekend.

“Seeing all the kids’ expressions while doing this makes everything worth it,” said trolley driver Herman Legassie.

The Wintergreen Express returned to Presque Isle Dec. 10-12, allowing families to take trips on the trolley to view lights throughout the city and then visit the Wintergreen Arts Center — aka the North Pole — to decorate cookies, drink hot chocolate and even meet Santa himself.

The journey began at the Sargent Community Center, where families waited for the trolley and its conductor while watching Christmas films. When the trolley’s jolly conductor Craig Green arrived, he welcomed families and punched their tickets to the North Pole. Passengers enjoyed viewing lights throughout the city as Green sang holiday tunes.

“The kids’ excitement is awesome, and it’s a chance for kids to go out and do something in the community, ride the trolley, and see the volunteers,” Green said. “The Wintergreen staff is awesome. It is such a value to have all the services that they provide. I am excited to do this every year to help with their mission.”

Volunteers inside the Wintergreen Arts Center sing Christmas carols for families decorating cookies during the Wintergreen Express event. (David DiMinno | The Star-Herald)

When the trolley arrived at the North Pole, families were greeted by dozens of volunteers, decorating crafts and Christmas trees, and even playing some reindeer games.  

Families sat around multiple tables decorating cookies, while volunteers sang Christmas carols. Children had the opportunity to meet Santa and tell him what they wanted for Christmas. Santa gave kids small sleigh bells that they could ring as a way to help guide the trolley back from the North Pole. 

Things returned to a somewhat normal state this year for the event. Last year, the event had to be altered due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Last year, we did an outdoor event and had families drive up in the vehicles and Santa was in the trolley,” said Wintergreen Arts Center Board Chair Gretchen Violette. “It was a great way to still be able to do the event. This year, we have a new space which works so much better. Our after school kids came to create this North Pole space for everyone, which is even more involved than normal.”

After enjoying cookies and hot chocolate, guests returned to the trolley. All the way home, children rang their bells to guide the trolley back to the Sargent Community Center amid holiday cheer.

“This year, we didn’t know what to expect,” said Violette. “We didn’t know how it would be received, but we sold 1,000 tickets. It’s unbelievable how much people have wanted to do this. [The Sargent Community Center] has been so kind to be open to this experience. We love the collaboration with them.”

Families decorate cookies and drink hot chocolate during the Wintergreen Express event. (David DiMinno | The Star-Herald)

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