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17. All aboard the Mesa Santa Express!
Episode 1716th December 2022 • Storylines • Valley Metro
00:00:00 00:18:17

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Get in the holiday spirit with Valley Metro at the Mesa Santa Express! In this episode, hosts Brittany and Maddie talk with Amy Church about the origins of the annual celebration. Then, experience the holiday cheer with sound and interviews from the event’s first weekend.

Transcripts

Brittany:

Have you ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes of your daily commute?

Madeline:

Or how transportation n impacts the community you call home?

Brittany:

Maybe you want to explore outside your community and don't know where to start.

Madeline:

Well, you're in luck because this is where you hop on.

Brittany:

I'm Brittany Hoffman.

Madeline:

And I'm Madeline Phipps.

Brittany:

We work in communications for Valley Metro and together we'll discover all the ways that public transit enhances lives across the cities we serve.

Madeline:

And we might even make some new friends along the way.

Brittany:

Welcome to Storylines. Maddie, the hustle and the bustle of the holiday season is already here and at Valley Metro we have a tradition that we've been doing for quite a long time. Do you know what it is?

Madeline:

I think I do. It happens in Mesa. The Mesa Dr. and Main St. Station. Is it the Mesa Santa Express?

Brittany:

You got it. Ding, ding, ding. And this experience is a present for all who come, young and old, get to hop on our light rail train and have an experience that also includes their favorite man in a red suit. Santa, of course. So, we're gonna hear from one of the event coordinators on what you can expect this year at the Santa Express and how it's evolved over the years.

Amy:

My name is Amy Church, and I am the director for Mesa Urban Renewal Arts Lab, or in other words, MURAL. I am a nonprofit in downtown Mesa and our focus is revitalizing the downtown Mesa area. And you're talking today because w e came up with this crazy idea about converting a light rail into a Mesa Santa Express.

Brittany:

So how did the Mesa Santa Express originally begin?

Amy:

really great story actually.:

So, there was a train already wrapped and he gave me a weekend to do it and I had about two weekends to pull it off. And that's how the Mesa Santa Express started. It was an opportunity to help revitalize downtown Mesa. Also put a focus on the arts programs that are available up and down the light rail, and to put a focus on the light rail. So that's kind of how it originated.

Madeline:

nking back to the first year,:

Amy:

Well so, first and foremost, when we came up with this, I kind of had a skeleton idea of what we were going to do and being that we were a nonprofit at the time and I had a low budget, we went to Bashas, who has been a partner with us since the very first year, and they donated cookies. So, we knew we wanted to have the kids have something festive on the train without having hot chocolate or something like that available to them on the train.

So we got cookies from Bashas. I ordered some bells off of Amazon and at the time the experience was they got on and we read them a Christmas story and then halfway down the train ride Santa would jump on. have an experience with them on the train.

The first night I had a PA system that was donated by Milano’s in the area. And my daughter read the story and we had a Santa on there. And there was no music if you can believe it. They just came on and had this experience on the train. And I realized very quickly that in the next 24 hours it had to be different.

I knew I had available, I had:

They didn't all ride, obviously, but there was a large attendance, and I don't know how it happened, the cookies, they were like mana from heaven. They just kept duplicating. We even had leftovers. So, it was a really positive experience that first year.

Brittany:

Amy, you can hear your passion for this whole experience and, you know, Christmas time, holiday celebration, a tradition that we definitely wanna keep alive here at Valley Metro. So, you mentioned the first year, low budget, you know, you're scraping things together. How has it really evolved over the years?

Amy:

Well, you know, I can't thank Valley Metro enough for jumping on board with this because after that first year, they realized that there was a demand, and so with each year as, it's been available, I mean, COVID posed some issues with the non-writing movement and stuff, but you have, with each year the trains have evolved.

train to meet the demand. In:

I host a market in the same place at this location, and so I was talking to some of these vendors that have been moms in the area and came to find out that this is the number one sought after event that moms in the Phoenix area talk about on their blogs and in their local groups that this is the event to follow. And so, it's such a wonderful thing in the sense that the ride in itself hasn't changed. The experience that they have hasn't changed. They get to have an amazing experience with some really great Santa’s, with some really great elves. I've added this great conductor. So, how it's changed is now if you don't have a ticket, you're gonna get in trouble.

You need to have that ticket because the conductor needs to see it. And so, as part of that experience, when they come to the light rail, to the stop where we do it, they'll go and they'll, get their commemorative ticket. You don't need a ticket to ride. It's not required. It's just a part a commemorative item they can take home from their experience. But then of course, the conductor is going to request it on the ride. So, evolved. I mean, we have a stronger following. But Bashas has maintained a strong presence with us. They still get that same great cookie. They still get a bell and they still get those experiences with Santa.

Madeline:

So, I think you touched on most of this, but is there anything else special that people should know about or expect if they're coming out to the event this year?

Amy:

So, this year it's going to be more of an experience, so it's not a moving ride, but once they get on the train and once the door closes, the experience is the exact same.

And so, other than the fact that it's not moving, they're still having a magical experience. They still get thrown into a world of elves and Santa and a story and a cookie and it's just a really magical experience. I expect we are gonna have a high volume of attendance this year, so just know when you do come to the Park and Ride, just make sure you go and you get your ticket.

We have tickets assigned for the allotted timeframes, so once you have that ticket in hand, you are secured a spot on the rail. Being that it's public transportation, we do not reserve tickets. And so it's a first come, first arrived basis. And then while you're here, especially in this year, prior to previous years, the Mesa Temple Lights have come back.

So there's a lot to do. There's a market. So, while people are wanting to get in line, there's other things they can do in that same location without having to leave. While they're waiting for their time to get on train. We're gonna have performances on a stage, gonna be local vendors, and then of course, Christmas lights.

Brittany:

Amy, you've done this for six years now. What is your favorite part of the Mesa Santa Express?

Amy:

I'm not gonna get emotional about this, but I have to say that, I have stayed with this event from day one. Elves have grown up and moved on. You know, I'm always chasing down Santa’s and other, you know, helpers. I do this for the people and there is nothing better than standing on a platform, especially after that first year, and I saw these families, I'm, I'm telling you, three generations grandma down to grandchildren in their stripe pajamas, like ridiculous pajamas.

the event, and they're baking:

And that all get to walk away and have this amazing tradition that we've created for them

Madeline:

Now that we've learned all about what the Mesa Santa Express is and how it got its start, we're gonna hear from some of the people who got to experience it coming up next.

Peter:

Valley Metro is your Artsline. See public and station art and check out one of the 55 arts and culture destinations along light rail. Learn more about Artsline and check out our interactive maps at valleymetro.org/artsline.

Alex:

Looking to plan a trip, use the Valley Metro app. It'll show you the best routes to get you where you want to go. And you can even track buses and light rail trains in real time. Search for the Valley Metro app on the apple app or Google Play stores.

Peter:

Suns fans, avoid the traffic and parking hassles and ride to home games in style. Your ticket to the game is your ticket for light rail to and from Footprint Center on game day. Get onboard and get excited.

Conductor:

All aboard. All board. It's the Mesa Santa Express. Tickets. No ticket. No Santa. This one looks like trouble here. For sure. What's your name young lady?

Riders:

What's your name? Say Chloe.

Conductor:

Chloe. Pleasure to meet you. Let me look at your ticket here. *Snap*

Riders:

Yay!

Brittany:

Tell us what you saw on the Mason Santa Express?

Riders:

I saw Santa. I saw elves.

Brittany:

And what else did you do?

Riders:

Ride on the train. A dance.

Brittany:

What'd you do with your bell?

Riders:

Jingle it. Jingle it.

Brittany:

Jingle it. And then what else did you get in the train?

Riders:

Um, A cookie.

Brittany:

A cookie. Did you tell Santa what you wanted?

Riders:

Yes.

Brittany:

What did you want..

Riders:

A kitchen. Grappling hook.

Brittany:

How much fun did you have?

Riders:

Lots of fun.

Brittany:

And what did you see on the train?

Riders:

Santa.

Brittany:

And what did you tell Santa you wanted?

Riders:

Oh, I forgot.

Brittany:

You forgot. What did you see on the train?

Riders:

Santa. Santa.

Brittany:

What else did you do on the train?

Riders:

Oh, we got cookies and, um, bells.

Brittany:

You got bells? And what did you tell Santa you wanted?

Riders:

Jewelry. Little bracelets.

Brittany:

How much fun did you have on the train?

Riders:

Good.

Brittany:

Good. Did you get to see Santa?

Riders:

Yeah.

Brittany:

And what did you tell him you wanted?

Riders:

A lightsaber.

Brittany:

Oh my goodness. You guys are a Star Wars family. I love it. So what did you do on the Mesa Santa Express?

Riders:

I had a cookie and I got bells.

Brittany:

And who came on the train?

Riders:

Uh, Santa.

Brittany:

And what did you tell him?

Riders:

Uh, I told, I told him to have a Merry Christmas.

Reader:

I'm gonna read this to you and we're gonna have some elves handing out some cookies and bells. On Christmas Eve many years ago, I laid quietly in my bed. I did not rustle the sheets. I breathed slowly and silently. I was listening for a sound.

A sound a friend had told me I'd never hear. The ringing bells of Santa’s sleigh. “There is no Santa.” My friend had insisted, but I knew he was wrong. Late that night I did hear sounds, though not of ringing bells. From outside came the sounds of hissing steam and squeaking metal. I looked through my window and saw a train standing perfectly still in front of my house.

It was wrapped in an apron of steam. Snowflakes fell lightly around it. A conductor stood at the open door of one of the cars. He took a large pocket wash from his vest. Then looked up at my window. I put on the slippers and robe. I tip toed down the stairs, out the door. “All aboard!” The conductor cried out.

I ran up to him. “Well,” he said, “are you coming?”

“Where?” I asked

“Why to the North Pole, of course,” was his answer

Riders:

…with your nose so bright, won’t you ride my sleigh tonight. Then all the reindeer loved him. As they shouted out with glee. Yipee! Rudolph the Red-Nosed reindeer, reindeer. You’ll go down in history. *Cheering*

Brittany:

What did you tell Santa that you wanted for Christmas?

Riders:

I didn't get a chance though.

Brittany:

Oh. What would you tell him?

Riders:

Uh, I’d tell him that I wanted a plushy.

Brittany:

A plushy. What would you tell Santa?

Riders:

I would say that I would like a phone and a skateboard.

Brittany:

A phone and a skateboard. What did you want?

Riders:

I want a PlayStation five.

Brittany:

Oh my goodness. Okay. What did you guys do with your bells on the train?

Riders:

Oh, we started ringing them. Yeah. We sang Jingle Bells and Rudolph. Jingle bells jingle bells.

Brittany:

And then what?

Riders:

And then Santa came. Oh my gosh. I hear he’s coming. Ring your bells ring your bell. Let’s keep ringing the bells to make him come. Make sure you believe. Believe in your heart. Believe in your head. He's got a long way to come from the pole. So you better keep ringing your bells.

Santa! *Cheering* Santa’s here!

Santa:

Merry Christmas everybody. Merry Christmas. Ooh I don’t know have you been a good girl?

Riders:

Yeah.

Santa:

Oh, I’ll have to think about it. Yeah, I’ll have to think about it. We'll see.

Riders:

Bye Santa. Merry Christmas. Bye Santa.

Santa:

Merry, Merry Christmas. Ho ho ho.

Riders:

Merry Christmas. Merry Christmas.

Mesa Santa Express:

Thanks for riding the Mesa Santa Express.

Brittany:

Maddie, just like Amy said earlier, it is a magical experience while you're out celebrating at the Mesa Dr and Main St Park-and-Ride and station hopping on the Mesa Santa Express. I loved getting to see all the smiling faces coming off the train.

Madeline:

It's such a wonderful time of year and it's so great that Valley Metro gets to bring a little bit of that holiday magic to the people that we serve across the Valley.

Brittany:

So don't forget, there's still one more weekend of the Mesa Santa Express, and you can hop on next year because it's a holiday tradition we're keeping alive year after year here at Valley Metro.

Madeline:

episode of Storylines and for:

Brittany:

For Valley Metro, I'm Brittany.

Madeline:

I'm Madeline.

Brittany:

Thanks for writing with us.

Madeline:

We’ll meet you at the next stop.

Brittany:

Storylines is produced by Alex Tsotsos and Dane Ryals. Peter Corkery is the executive producer. I'm Britney Hoffman with Madeline Phipps. Thanks for listening.

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