Christmas, Santa Claus and the North Pole were on the minds of more than 30 people Friday afternoon at the Saratoga Springs train station.
The people were auditioning for jobs as dancing elves, singing chefs, conductors and charismatic Santas during a job fair for the upcoming Polar Express trains to be run by the Saratoga & North Creek Railway.
“When I heard about it on television, I said I’m going to do it,” said Karen Erwin, a retired high school teacher from Saratoga Springs.
“I’m just looking to be part of this. It’s a joyous time to be part of the holiday season,” she said.
Erwin said she would like to greet the young people and their parents as they arrive at the Saratoga Springs train station to board the Polar Express when the special train starts running Nov. 16.
The Polar Express takes passengers on an hourlong, mystical round-trip journey to the North Pole. During the trip, characters of the Polar Express story come to life while the classic children’s story is read aloud and music from the movie plays for all the passengers to sing along.
Erwin said now that she is retired she likes to try different things, “to do what you haven’t been able to do.”
Vera Kasson, an event planner for the Saratoga & North Creek Railway, said last year’s Polar Express was “tremendously successful,” with more than 30,000 boarding the train to the North Pole.
“This year we are gearing up for 40,000 passengers,” she said.
“We go to the North Pole in 30 minutes,” Kasson joked. She said once the train arrives at the North Pole, Santa Claus boards and greets all the children.
She quashed a rumor that the train only makes it as far as Corinth, saying the destination definitely is the North Pole.
Some of those auditioning Friday afternoon wanted to be conductors. They were asked by Kasson to say in a loud voice “All Aboard” several times.
Others wanted to be elves. Ashley Fulton of Ballston Spa was again auditioning to be an elf on the Polar Express. She said she was a “chelf” last year — an elf who is also a chef. She said she sings and dances during the train ride, as well as serving hot chocolate and cookies to the passengers.
“By the end of it, your throat is kind of sore. I liked it. My mom wants to join this year,” said Fulton, who also works at the Gideon Putnam Resort in Saratoga Spa State Park.
Lynn Marko of Ann Arbor, Mich., an employee of Iowa Pacific Holdings LLC, the Chicago-based parent company of the Saratoga & North Creek Railway, is a hiring specialist for the Polar Express who also came to Saratoga Springs last September to help with the hiring of some 100 people to staff the Polar Express trains.
Cheerleaders and gymnasts from Saratoga Springs High School were part of the cast on last year’s Polar Express and have been invited to work on this year’s edition of the popular train, she said.
“We did have a lot of fun,” Marko said.
Workers are paid between $8 and $12 per hour, depending on their job. Those seeking a job must fill out an application and are subject to a background check and drug and alcohol testing.
The job fair will continue today at the Saratoga Springs train station (also the Saratoga & North Creek station) from noon to 4 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m.
“We are interested in a whole range of people,” Marko said.
Those auditioning Friday included a variety of ages with a variety of interests, she said.
From Nov. 16 until Jan. 6, the Polar Express generally runs two trains each evening, one leaving the station at 5:30 p.m. and the other at 8 p.m.
The trains don’t run Tuesdays and some other days.
For more information, visit www.saratogapolarexpressride.com.