An image of 5-year-old Miles Scott, who is in remission from leukemia, adorns the side of a train the department has long used as a centerpiece for its annual holiday tree-lighting ceremony at Golden Gate Park. Scott won acclaim from across The City and nationally, including a nod from President Barack Obama, as he battled “villains” across San Francisco during a Make-A-Wish event Nov. 15.
This year, department painter supervisor Joe Padilla and General Manager Phil Ginsburg decided to fly with the Batkid theme, so the train got bat ears, black-and-blue paint, and “Batkid Express” and “Destination: Gotham City” lettering.
“If you looked at the newspapers, he was riding around giving a thumbs up, so we actually got Batkid on the window with the little thumbs up,” said Padilla, 53, who has painted the train with a different theme for 15 years.
The train’s cars, topped with presents, were also painted in character.
“I didn’t want to put in Joker or Riddler in the train behind it, so I did the next train in the theme of Robin,” Padilla said of the popular comic book characters.
The green, yellow and red car harks back to the old TV series and reads “Holy guacamole Batkid, you saved the city” on one side and “Holy armadillo Batkid, you saved Lou Seal” on the other.
The third car — black and white — is modeled after a Gotham City police car and reads, “Thank you Batkid for saving our city.” Whereas last year’s theme was slightly political — spotlighting the Warriors to welcome the team back to The City — this year’s design can touch people outside of San Francisco.
“It meant a lot to a lot of people out here,” Padilla said. “And people around the world were seeing what the citizens of San Francisco did for this kid.”
The 84th annual holiday tree-lighting ceremony at Golden Gate Park’s McLaren Lodge takes place Thursday, but the Batkid train has been keeping watch there for at least a week.
A previous version of this story stated that Golden Gate Park's tree-lighting ceremony would take place on Friday. The ceremony is on Thursday, December 5.