FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 2013 Season
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From SANTA CLAUS LAND to HOLIDAY WORLD: 67 YEARS OF FAMILY FUN
SANTA CLAUS, IN—–The history of the nation’s first theme park is the story of a family which has, for three generations, dedicated itself to providing millions of guests with good, old-fashioned family fun.
Evansville, Ind., industrialist Louis J. Koch created the world’s first theme park as a retirement project. He was troubled that the tiny hamlet of Santa Claus, Ind., was visited by children who were disappointed when they discovered Santa was not there. With nine children of his own, Koch loved children, holidays and celebrations.
Santa Claus Land opened August 3, 1946; the theme park included a toy shop, toy displays, a restaurant, themed children’s rides, and, of course, Santa. When Koch’s son Bill returned from World War II, he was curious to see his father’s project. After overcoming doubts about the park’s viability, Bill soon became the head of Santa Claus Land. In 1960, Bill married “Santa’s daughter,” Patricia Yellig; he remained active in the family business until his death in 2001. Bill and Pat had five children; the eldest, Will, was the park’s president for more than 20 years until his unexpected death in 2010. His brother Dan was president through 2012. Long-time employee Matt Eckert is now president.
Over the decades, Santa Claus Land flourished. Children from across the country came to sit on the real Santa’s knee and whisper their Christmas wishes. Guests included Ronald Reagan, who stopped by in 1955.
As the park grew, the Koch family knew Christmas was not the only theming possibility for the park. In 1984, Santa Claus Land expanded to also include the Halloween and 4th of July sections, and the park’s name was changed to Holiday World.
In 1993, Splashin’ Safari Water Park was added; it now covers 30 acres and features two wave pools and rivers, family raft rides, numerous water slides, plus several interactive family-waterplay complexes. The park also offers free sunscreen and free use of inner tubes and life jackets.
Holiday World introduced The Raven wooden roller coaster in 1995; it has been voted one of the world’s top wooden coasters each year since, as has The Legend wooden roller coaster, added in 2000. That year, Holiday World became the first park in the world to provide free, unlimited soft drinks.
In 2004, the highly-coveted international Applause Award was presented to Holiday World & Splashin' Safari, the smallest park to ever receive the award, which honors “foresight, originality and creativity, plus sound business development and profitability.”
In 2006, the park introduced a new holiday. The Thanksgiving section included a recording-breaking new wooden coaster, The Voyage, which helped catapult the park’s seasonal attendance past the one-million mark for the first time. In 2007-2011 the readers of Amusement Today voted Voyage the #1 Wooden Coaster in the World; the parks, which now cover 120 acres, were also named the World’s Friendliest and Cleanest again in 2011. In 2007 and again in 2012, Consumers Digest named Holiday World the nation’s “Top Value Park.”
In 2010, the park’s first water coaster, Wildebeest, opened in Splashin’ Safari and was named the #1 Water Park Ride in the World. In 2012, Mammoth, the World’s Longest Water Coaster, opened; Hyena Falls, a four in-the-dark water slide complex opens in 2013.
Throughout its existence, Holiday World has set high standards for the theme park industry, with a steadfast adherence to the values established in the company’s cornerstones: safety, service, cleanliness and friendliness.
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