Official confirms Polar Express returning

Published 11:14 am Friday, August 18, 2017

By John Howell
Don Clayton and Sheila Pounders of Court Street Patio, LLC, will again serve as local event managers for the Polar Express Train Ride in Batesville, an official for Iowa Pacific Holdings told the city’s mayor and aldermen during Tuesday’s board meeting.
Iowa Pacific hired Clayton and Pounders for last year’s event.
“They did a really nice job for us last year; they were one of the higher scoring Polar Expresses in our realm in terms of guest scores,” IP Polar Express Production Manager Matt Abby said.
“We have a couple of things to iron out with the licenser — Rail Events, they hold the master license for all the Polar Expresses in the world,” said Abby.
The 2017 Polar Express Train Ride will follow the format of two previous years’ events in Batesville with the same “North Pole” destination, according to Abby.
“We’re going to add another full-length dome car to the train,” Abby said. “These last two years we had one dome car; this year there’ll be two. Those are seats that sell the fastest and the first and they’re the ones people want, so it’s going to be a nice improvement to the train set.”
“Are y’all going to need another licensing agreement like you had the last two years with the city for the Square?” assistant City Attorney Colmon Mitchell asked.
“All of that will have to be done, yes,” Abby replied.
“So when y’all figure out your details in this layout, y’all will come back to us again?” Alderman Teddy Morrow asked.
“That’s exactly right,” Abby replied.
“Do you know how long that’ll be, Matt, before you can come back and talk to us about what you want to do?” Alderman Stan Harrison asked.
“It better be next month or I’m going to be in a world of hurt,” Abby said.
He said that Pounders and Clayton will probably bring that information to the city for IP.
“It sounds like to me that the Polar Express may be a good go this year,” Harrison said.
Tickets should go on sale by the first of September for a riding season similar to 2016 but with the addition of several after-Christmas riding days.
“All Polar Expresses, I believe there’s 48 of them worldwide, have participated or are about to participate in a series of enhancement camps being put on by Rail Events,” Abby said. “One of things that comes out of that is an adjusted focus from being a train ride with a show to being more of a theatrical rendition that happens to be on a train. That shift in perspective adds to the quality of the event, but it also demands more practice trips,” Abby said, creating opportunities for complimentary rides for youth service organizations, legislators and other guests.
Panola Partnership CEO Joe Azar asked Abby about the status of payment for local vendors, some of whom have described long waiting periods on payments for services after the 2016 season. Abby replied that to the best of his knowledge all have been paid for their services, though negotiations continue with one vendor about additional charges.
“Sorry to have to ask you, but they need to know — everybody needs to know — that you’re taking care of business,” Azar said.
“Trying, it’s been a tough year, but we’re trying,” Abby replied.

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