The Marshall family lives in Burns, Ore., the “biggest” city in one of the most stark and scenic corners of Oregon. Tradition lives large in their lives.
Colby Marshall was born in Burns, and now raises cattle. His wife, Shelley, studied to become a teacher, and now works at the local Education Service District.
With two kids at home, the Marshalls love to tap the spirit of Christmas. Which is why they loaded the gang into the car and headed to Hood River last December, to ride the Polar Express train operated by the Mt. Hood Railroad.
“We have been riding the train now for three years and love our weekend in your special town,” Shelley wrote to us recently.
“My two children ages 5 and 8 can not wait to begin our holidays with a trip to Hood River and stay in the most magical hotel EVER!”
Hadley, 8, and Wyatt, 5, are not unlike droves of kids, with parents and grandparents in tow, who throng to Hood River in November and December to ride a realistic re-creation of the tale in Christopher Van Allsburg’s book.
Shelley says the magic flows well beyond the storybook train ride, into every corner of Hood River.
Her kids, she says, “love the huge Christmas tree (in the lobby of the Hood River Hotel), the elevator, the pancakes, our room and having pizza before we ride the train. They both save their money each year to visit G. Willikers toy store and pick out a special toy (we spend hours in that store).”
Even though her children are growing older — and more skeptical of, ahem, certain fuzzy-faced personages — Shelley says “we hope to continue to come, even as they get older.”
She says her kids occasionally encounter “other” Santas, “but they know that the one on the Polar Express is the real Santa.”
As do we all, Shelley, as do we all.
“Your hotel staff has been so helpful and always so wonderful to work with,” she says. “I have been recommending the Polar Express and the Hood River Hotel to my friends, because our experiences have been so special to our family and I want others to have those same experiences.”
We know it’s a bit early for Christmas holiday planning, but if you’re interested in connecting your kids with Santa, you might call 541-386-1900 to make a reservation.