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Our family has been visiting Holiday World
in southern Indiana for years. I love it, for several reasons. First, the nostalgia: my grandparents took me there when I was a child (back then it was known as Santa Claus Land). It’s been wonderful to experience the park through the years, as I grew up and had my own kids. Every year, my dad still starts mentioning around Christmas that we girls should come up with a date to visit Holiday World. Another reason I love the park is that it is such a bright, friendly, clean place. I can’t say much more about that because I think it’s really something you have to experience to totally understand.
During last year’s visit to Holiday World, while browsing in the gift shop, I noticed a book about the park. I really don’t need any more knick-knacks, but this book looked interesting. And true to my frugality, rather than buying it, I looked to see if the library carried it. It did, but oddly enough, it wasn’t available for checkout. So, I purchased it for a good price at Amazon.
Holiday World Book
Holiday World, part of the Images of America book series,
was a thoroughly enjoyable read for me. This is really more of a picture book than a “book book,” with photos taking up the majority of each page. But, there’s plenty of text as well. You’ll learn about the history of the park.
How, you may wonder, did the town come to be named Santa Claus? Back in 1846, when the town was founded, it was named Santa Fe. Upon learning that there was already a Santa Fe, Indiana (I didn’t know that), the town fathers brainstormed another name. It was winter time, and as the children outside ran around shouting about Santa Claus, the name became a reality.
The Santa Claus post office was the town’s first claim to fame. Many people mailed their cards there each Christmas so they could get the “Santa Claus” postmark. In 1946, Louis Koch opened up Santa Claus Land, America’s first theme park. World War II had just ended. Jim Yellig was hired to play Santa Claus.
The Koch Family
You really can’t learn about Holiday World without learning about the Koch (and Yellig) families. The Kochs’ son Bill married “Santa” Jim Yellig’s daughter Pat, and those two ran Holiday World for years. Jim died in 2001 (in the week following 9/11), but Pat continued on (she no longer works at the park, but is still going strong at 86). Bill and Pat had five children, and the park continues in the family. There is background there, with the oldest son who ran the park dying suddenly and young in his 40s, and then some drama among the remaining kids and in-laws. Another son died young as well, and currently the wife and family of the oldest son are in charge. This book was published in the early 2000s, before this had all happened, but I did some reading online to catch up to current news.
The nursery rhyme figures have been here since my childhood visits.
Holiday World History
I loved that this book reminded me of some parts of Holiday World/Santa Claus Land that I’d forgotten: there used to be booths with chickens or rabbits inside that would do a trick/”drive” a truck etc. while you watched. Fun memory! I also was reminded of the doll museum and Hall of Presidents — I loved those and miss them each time I now walk by the area where they used to be.
If you are a Holiday World fan as well I think you’d enjoy this book.