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Santas who rode the “Polar Express” say goodbye

Published: Monday, Jan. 13, 2014 11:07 p.m. CDT • Updated: Monday, Jan. 13, 2014 11:14 p.m. CDT
(Jon Cunningham for Sun-Times Media)
In this Jan. 11, 2014 photo, a table full of Santas, Mrs. Clauses, and guests applaud remarks by Santa Jeff Curtis, top right, at a gathering in Aurora, Ill., during an event that came after Warner Bros. notified dozens of Chicago-area attractions they could no longer use the "Polar Express" name in their long-running holiday events without paying a hefty licensing fees. The company owns the "Polar Express" name.

AURORA – Some Chicago-area Santas who got word they can’t return on the “Polar Express” next year because of a legal dispute gathered over the weekend to say goodbye to the traditional holiday events.

Saturday’s gathering came after Warner Bros. notified dozens of Chicago-area attractions late last year that the just-completed holiday season would be the last time they could use the “Polar Express” name in their long-running holiday events without the company, which owns the “Polar Express” name a hefty licensing fees, the (Aurora) Beacon-News reported.

After about 70 “Polar Express” attractions in the Chicago area heard from Warner Bros., many said they could not afford the fee and would change rather than pay for a legal battle to keep the name. In Fox River, the park district’s public relations manager, Jeff Long, said the name would be changed after residents are asked what they think it should be called.

That made for some sad Santas.

“I find it very disappointing that they have taken [the name] away from the children,” said Doug White, of Aurora, AKA Santa Claus. “What the ‘Polar Express’ does for children is just wonderful.”

The Santas did get a ho-ho-ho out of the sight of event organizer John Sullivan holding up what he called a “lump of coal” award that he vowed to send to Warner Bros. corporate office.

“I’m sure they will put it in a prominent place there,” he said, as the Santas and others in the crowd at Blackberry Farm’s Polar Express roared and applauded.

The company has explained in its letters to the community that it believes using the name will mislead people into thinking Warner Bros. is involved in the holiday events and their use of the company’s “intellectual property dilutes the distinctiveness of ‘the Polar Express’ property by trading upon the goodwill and reputation which the public associates with the property.”


Information from: The Beacon-News, http://www.suburbanchicagonews.com/beaconnews

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