Western Elite, a dumpster company, creates a magical Christmas wonderland at their Alamo headquarters annually. It’s a month-long private event, and usually, we can’t get tickets. This year, we did.
What they put on for free is very cool. Several kid attractions include carriage rides and small train carts pulled around by a tractor. They have delicious hot chocolate and provide dinner too. The main attraction is the Christmas Express. It’s the Polar Express experience, but on a bus without legal branding implications.
The last time we went, Emily was around three. It was fun but cold, and with most things three-year-olds related, it’s not a good time if they aren’t comfortable. The six-year-old experience was much more fun. She had her favorite cousin, Everett, to play with, and she loved being the big kid and caring for him.
There was a bit of drama around the tickets, the train ride schedule, and the nieces showing up characteristically late, but it worked itself out. And, while we waited for things to settle, I drank four cups of piping hot, hot chocolate. I was thinking, shoot, take your time.
It was our scheduled boarding time when the nieces arrived. The line for the Christmas express is a cool experience too. They had a little elf village, a gingerbread house with a roof made of Tootsie Pops (I went back after learning they had a new blue raz flavor), an Elsa-like princess, and a Hawaiian family singing Christmas carols.
As we got closer to the bus, they played The Polar Express on a projector, which was a fantastic reminder of what to expect. We could see they had three buses in rotation, all with fire pits on the roof to simulate the train’s coal engines. Or was it where he met Santa in the movie? I don’t remember.
They pack the buses up tight. Everyone has to sit laps. Kelly, Emily, Amity, Charity, Everett, Annalise, Tillie, and I took up a row. A jolly host with a microphone claimed their Christmas Express “train” was the best one. Looking back, I believe her.
We took off down the track and stopped along the way to see little plays they put together. There was a Santa scene where the naughty elves revolted, a nativity scene, and my favorite, a reenactment of Home Alone. They punched our tickets like the movie, and the host with the most sang songs and got all the kids hyped. Emily was way into it and way into making sure Evertte was having fun. She’s so sweet and nurturing.
At one point, the train stopped to let on some special guests. Everyone looks around, and after some audible gasps and a loud Ho Ho Ho, Santa and Mrs. Clause start walking up from the back. Emily doesn’t believe this is the real Santa for a single second.
At the front of the bus, the host lady asks the kids what they want for Christmas. We are sitting about two-thirds back, and I can see the pressure building in Emily’s eyes. What will she say when it’s her turn? We know she wants a Barbie dream house, but for whatever reason, that’s not cool enough for the mic. The wheels are turning.
It’s almost Emily’s turn. The kid in front of us says she wants a karaoke machine. Emily knows what she’s going to say is ready to go. Right before the mic comes her way, Santa announces this is his stop, and he’s gotta get off. Emily is dejected.
We did our best to cheer her up and ask what she would say. She said a piano. Kelly and I look at each other surprised. She had piano class this year but didn’t really take to it. Just then, the host lady comes to Emily and asks if she wants to honk the train horn. She jumps up excitedly, and we walk up together.
What’s funny here is this horn is loud and has been buggin Em all night. Even before we got in the place, the horn went off, and Emily covered her ears. She said, “too loud!” Now it’s her turn to honk the horn. She is the only kid on the bus who gets the chance, and all the too-loud thoughts are out the window. She honks the horn loud and long. We are talking a ten-second honk, and she loves it.
So, thanks to Western Elite. I hope we can go next year, and I guess Santa had better start shopping for a piano.