PENINSULA, Ohio —
The annual "Polar Express" experience at the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad (CVSR) has been canceled for 2020 due to COVID-19.
CVSR made the announcement on Wednesday in a press release posted on their website.
The organization began the train rides on November 6 and the program was set to run through Sunday, December 20.
The announcement comes as COVID-19 cases within the state continue to skyrocket.
“As we look to an uncertain future with respect to this situation, CVSR must make this decision now,” said CVSR President and CEO Joe Mazur. “THE POLAR EXPRESS™ Train Ride is one of Northeast Ohio’s most treasured holiday traditions. However, the health and wellbeing of our customers, volunteers, community and staff come first.”
Refunds will be issued to anyone who purchased tickets for the event for any of the scheduled train-ride dates between Thursday, November 19, and Sunday, December 20. Customers will also be given an option to receive a gift card back for the tickets or to donate the amount spent to the CVSR.
CVSR halted all programs earlier this year for a seven month period due to the Coronavirus, before re-opening for their Fall Flyer program.
"Like everyone, the National Park Service was delighted to see and hear Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad operating in the valley this fall,” said Cuyahoga Valley National Park Superintendent Craig Kenkel. “We understand and support their decision and look forward to a better time in 2021 when CVSR is again rolling on the tracks and serving park visitors.”
The "Polar Express" experience is CVSR's largest fundraiser each year, and as the organization is a non-profit 501(c)(3) charity, the group is currently accepting donations to help offset the financial loss. Donations can be made here.
For the last four years, Melissa Ivery has taken her family to the Polar Express to sing songs and enjoy the presence of Santa and the elves. A tradition being cut short this year.
“I saw the email first they sent out an email and I saw that and I was so disappointed,” says Ivery.
Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad made the difficult decision to end the Polar Express after tonight because of Ohio’s Covid cases. The CVSR CEO, Joe Mazur says he and his staff have stepped up cleaning, social distancing, and more health protocols, but Northeast Ohio’s numbers kept climbing.
“By seeing the cases at 7,000 in the state of Ohio continue to climb, it just seems like the right thing to do,” says Mazur.
Parents say this is yet another activity the pandemic is taking from their kids.
“My six year old he looks forward to this every year and we’ve taken him since he was two,” says Ivery.
Families aren’t the only disappointed ones. Elf Nancy was dispatched from the North Pole to help with Northeast Ohio’s Polar Express.
“I was ready to cry. I really was so sad because it means so much to those little people. To see them wave and get excited,” says Elf Nancy.
Mazur says he’s sorry the Polar Express has to close.
“These are unprecedented times and we just want to do what’s best for the community and what’s right for the community. Look for us to come back next year even bigger and better than we are this year,” says Mazur.
Elf Nancy says that Santa and the Elves are already marking their calendars to participate in the Polar Express in 2021.
“I want you dear children to know that we are looking forward to having you again next year when there is no health problem and no Covid-19 virus. I know it’s hard to understand, but we do care about you and love you an awful lot,” says Elf Nancy.