What was the first theme park in the country? If you hit Disneyland, go to the naughty list. In fact, they called it Santa Claus - a year-round Christmas idyll in the middle of the country that was created before Walt Disney decided to make its brand a tourist destination.
To understand the land of Santa Claus, you must understand its location: Santa Claus, Indiana. The city became forever associated with Christmas back in the 1850s, when residents who signed up for the U.S. Post Office realized that their city, which had been founded a few years earlier, had the same name as another Indiana city. There was no choice but to change the name Santa Fe from Indiana to something else. After the locals consulted with each other, "Santa Claus" won. It is not enough that the inhabitants of that town realized that they are setting up a Christmas industry for the weekend, which will last for more than a century.
Although Santa Claus was the name of the city, one nearby resident felt that the place was not respected enough for the man himself. For years, the city was a favorite place for teenagers to send letters to Santa Claus, to which the postman responded (with a little help from the locals), along with the city's unique postage stamp. However, a local industrialist named Louis Koch felt that was not enough - he believed the city needed a better way to pay tribute to each of the most beloved Christmas visitors.
Koch took matters into his own hands during the early Second World War, when he bought 260 hectares of agricultural land with plans for an amusement park. The war intervened briefly, but when it was over, Koch moved forward as fast as a sleigh pulling a sleigh. He and his son opened a park with the theme of Santa Claus, designed in the Alpine style, complemented by beautiful details such as a toy store, children's rides and performances by Santa Claus. She even had a Doll's House for girls.
Amusement parks existed long before the opening of Santa Land in 1946, but a park with a certain theme was something new. One of his greatest treasures was Santa Claus himself, when he played a man named Jim Yellig for almost four decades. Yellig earned a place in the international Santa Claus Hall of Fame for his faithful portrayal of the famous celebrity, and it is believed that he had more than a million children during his generation.
Future President Ronald Reagan visits the country of Santa Claus in 1955, with Santa Claus (Jim Yellig) on the left and Louis Koch on the right. The painting
Koch's offer to appoint Santa Claus succeeded. Although initially free (it began charging 50 cents for adults in 1955), the park generated enough revenue to make Koch's son, Bill, think: Why not build Santa Claus - the city itself - even more?
Bill Koch’s dream for Santa was huge, and he didn’t stop with an ordinary park of kids. Instead of Disney behind him, he understood his investment in that area as a real estate offer. He opened the camp across the park in 1958. Then, in the early 1960s, he told his son that he wanted to build a stable small town. "He wanted a better place to raise children," his son Filip recalled in the history of his father's business. Bill's wife Pat told her husband he was "absolutely crazy. Why would anyone want to live in Santa?"
Unproven, Bill began buying up farmland and working with local authorities to create a foundation for the subdivision - which featured street names such as Chestnut-on-Fire. In 1966, Christmas Lake was opened - and today the city's high-quality community has about 2,000 inhabitants. (The family also built another community that was not closed, called Holiday Village.)
Things have changed over the years in Santa's country. In the 1970s, the park began to add bolder rides in order to compete with the growing trend of rollerblading. In the 1980s, it changed its name to Holiday World and incorporated other holidays such as Halloween, Thanksgiving and the Fourth of July. These days there is also a water park called Splashin 'Safari and several notable coastal settlements, such as The Raven and The Legend.
It may no longer be called the Land of Santa Claus, but Holiday World is still a local destination and has a lot of Christmas days (Santa still shows up every day). And perhaps the best part of the park is the fact that it originated from Santa's obsession with a small town.