High Schoolers get into spirit for Polar Express Train Ride

Dec 20, 2022

Wareham High School senior Indiana Troupe has an extensive resume. He is Class President, host of the school’s Morning Announcements, Vice President of the Global Education Club, Vice President of the National Honor Society and a member of the Key Club, Model UN, Newspaper Club and Student Advisory Committee.

He has also played Gumdrop the elf on the Cape Cod Central Railroad’s Polar Express Train Ride for the last several years. With each year, more and more of his classmates have joined him, singing, dancing, and entertaining hundreds of children while dressed as elves and chefs on the magical train to the North Pole.

“We get to spread Christmas magic,” Troupe said, “and we get to inspire little kids to continue believing in Christmas.”

Troupe has memorized the choreographed dance routines so well that he does them in his sleep.

“He pretty much knows the name of the game at the Railroad,” said show director Lizzy Pitch. “We’re happy to have him represent us.”

This season has been particularly busy. On Tuesday, Dec. 20, Troupe and many other Wareham High School students were on the train, preparing to perform for over 600 people. They put green and red tassels in their pigtails and painted their eyelids a glittering shade of green. Every time they show off for their adoring audience, Troupe gets teary-eyed.

Many people ask him why he comes back every year, and to all of them, he says that he does it because of the kids who come back every year. His favorite is a little girl who will bring framed pictures and signed drawings from the Polar Express Train Rides of past years.

“Kids will name their Elf on the Shelf after us,” he said. “They want to see Gumdrop, they want to see Jingles. With people coming back year after year, we don’t want to make them disappointed.

The dancing elves and chefs are responsible for making sure that every child gets off the train not only entertained, but wonderstruck with Christmas spirit. 

Whether they were motivated by Christmas spirit, word of mouth at school or the hope of making a little extra money during the holidays, the students were excited to serve cookies, hot chocolate and an unforgettable experience to the hundreds of children on board.

“I enjoy talking to the kids and making relationships with kids I’ve never met,” said Amaya Burton, a freshman at Upper Cape Cod Regional Technical School who lives in Wareham, as she put her makeup on.

Burton took the job solely for the chance to entertain children.

“You don’t realize how much it’s going to impact a little kid’s life just to dance with them,” she said.

Wareham High School senior Laura Clements said that after a long weekend of shows, it’s hard to keep up with the demand for cheer.

“It requires a lot of showmanship,” she said. 

“The kids bring the energy,” said junior Kiley Sullivan, who came to the “Polar Express” in search of a winter job. “I love working with the kids. They’re really cute and they get really excited.”

Wareham High School freshmen McKenna Duggan and Kaine Oliveira heard about the job from their friends. Oliveira loves how colorful his elf costume is, and both he and Duggan enjoy seeing the looks of joy on the children’s faces. 

“It brought Christmas magic in the air,” Duggan said. “It showed me how much Christmas means to them.”

Duggan plays Snowy, an elf who (aptly) makes snow, and Oliveira plays Hope, an elf who wraps presents. It is stressful to balance schoolwork with the duties of being an elf, and learning the choreography is tough. Interacting with the kids, however, is the easy part — except for when they keep asking questions.

“Is that the real North Pole?”

“Is that the real Santa?”

“How do you make candy canes?”

“What do you do at the North Pole?”

Their answer to these questions is a simple one: “Magic.”