Little Bits of History

Santa All Year Long

Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 3, 2014
Santa Claus Land

Santa Claus Land

August 3, 1946: Santa Claus Land opens. Louis J Koch was a retired industrialist from Evansville, Indiana. He visited Santa Claus, Indiana in 1941 and like many of the children who came to the town, he was disappointed to find there was no Santa. Koch was the father of nine children and understood just how much trouble this might cause families and so he decided to build a park where children could have fun and visit Santa Claus all year long. Initial construction plans were delayed due to World War II but on August 4, 1945 the building of the amusement park began. A year later, Indiana’s second amusement park was opened to the public.

When it opened, the park offered children Santa, a toy shop, displays, a restaurant, themed children’s rides, and the Santa Claus Land Railroad. After the park proved successful, William Koch, Sr. – Louis’s son, took over running the park although the father remained active and added many new features to the park. The first Jeep-Go-Round ever built was placed at the park and Louis also opened a deer farm which eventually was home to fourteen European white fallow deer. In 1955, the park began charging an admission fee – fifty cents for adults although children were still admitted free. More features were added and future US President Ronald Reagan even visited.

Live entertainment was added and Lake Rudolph was the venue for Willie Bartley Water Ski Thrill Show during the summer months. The Santa Claus Choir was comprised of local children and performed at the park for a few years. By 1976, the park opted to shift its focus from children only to the whole family. They also moved their entrance as they redesigned the park. In 1984 they added nine new rides, eight of them for older children and adults. For decades, the park was purely a Santa park but by 1984, the Koch family realized other holidays would make for a great expansion possibility. They added Halloween and Fourth of July sections and formally changed the name of the park to Holiday World. As there were more holidays which came to also include Thanksgiving, some of the ride names changed as well to reflect the shift from everything Santa.

Bill’s son eventually took over running the family business and more features were added. Splashin’ Safari was added in 1993 and a new wooden roller coaster, The Raven, was added in 1995 and voted the “Ride of the Year” as well as the world’s second best wooden roller coaster. It moved to the number one spot in 2000 and remained there for four years. Today, Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari is open from May through October. The theme and water parks sport fifty rides with four of them roller coasters and 23 of them water rides. The park sits on 120 acres and has 1.2 million visitors per year. The Koch Family remains as the owner and Matthew Eckert is the general manager. Tickets today start at $34.95.

I love going to the movie theatre, seeing live comedy, and going to amusement parks. – Jennette McCurdy

I look just like the girls next door… if you happen to live next door to an amusement park. – Dolly Parton

You can’t live on amusement. It is the froth on water – an inch deep and then the mud. – George MacDonald

I love sporting events and popcorn and pizza and being outside, like at a baseball or football game. I love amusement parks, going to ride roller coasters. – Carrie Underwood

Also on this day: Columbus Sailed the Ocean Blue – In 1492 Christopher Columbus set sail for China.
Where the Rubber Meets the Road – In 1900, Firestone Rubber and Tire Company was incorporated.
Lenny Bruce – In 1966, Lenny Bruce died.
Row, Row, Row your Boat – In 1852, the first Harvard-Yale Regatta was held.


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