A fowl memory of Santa Claus Land

We received a confession, of sorts, from Ginger via email this week.

The Bloomington, Indiana, lady graciously gave us permission to make this a public confession.

We searched our photo archives, but couldn’t find the perfect photo to go with this story. You’ll understand why once you read it.

From Ginger, here is the Great Chicken Confession:

I have a new co-worker in my office, recently moved to our area from Florida, who had been told there was “nothing to do in Indiana!”

I and another co-worker assured her that that most certainly was NOT the case, and that we knew of a terrific place not too far south of here to take her family (she is a mother of four) that was fun and affordable.

I specifically mentioned the free unlimited drinks and the sunscreen, and told her to visit your website. I also took a minute to go to your webpage, thinking it would make a nice day trip for my grandchildren, and I saw your “Do You Remember Santa Claus Land?” page, and was reminded of one of my own Santa Claus Land memories . . . .

I was born in 1962, and this was when I was still fairly young, not sure of my exact age, but I’m guessing probably around five or six, because I vividly remember the building with all the dolls on display.

But the memory that stands out the most was this trained chicken in a cage, wherein you (inserted coins? pushed a button?) and it would come out of a box and peck out a tune with its beak on a little piano.

Piano-playing duck

My uncle did whatever it was to set the process in motion – pushed a button or whatever – and, out came Mr. Chicken!

He gave a few pecks on the piano, looked around, and at that moment he realized – as did we – that there was a big, gaping hole in the side of the cage, and he lost no time in making good his escape.

The last we saw of Mr. Chicken was him running off out the back door, through the grass behind the building . . .

Frankly, I’d never seen a chicken run quite that fast before.

Funny, I don’t recall that the adults actually reported the missing chicken to the park employees. And as a little kid, I was afraid we’d somehow be held responsible and accused of – what? – chicken-napping? And of course, there were no chickens’ pictures on milk cartons in those days . . .

P.S. I just told this [rather animated] story to my co-workers, and I’m not sure whether they think the story is really funny, or if they just think I’m really nuts . . .

P.P.S. This weekend, I shared the story with another friend, and he offered the theory that the hole in the cage had, in fact, been made by Mr. Chicken himself, over a period of months, being gradually enlarged until such time as it was big enough for him to make good his escape. Therefore, we have now nicknamed him the “Shawshank Chicken.”

Santa Claus Land Children’s Choir

1970 Santa Claus Land Children's Choir

1970 Santa Claus Land Children's ChoirHas it really been 40 years?

All these children are grown now, with children (and maybe even grandchildren) of their own.

Time, it seems, flies as fast as Santa’s sleigh on Christmas Eve

Just in time for Christmas, we’ve dusted off this film (yes, this was long before VHS tapes or DVDs) of the Santa Claus Land Children’s Choir. This choir, made up of local children,  performed here at the park in 1970 and 1971.

Merry Christmas to you and your family from all of us here at Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari!

Do you remember Santa Claus Land?

We started out, back in 1946, as a park called Santa Claus Land.

Here’s a rather remarkable precursor to today’s infomercial.

And yes, it includes a darling Santa Jim cameo. And those well-remembered educated animals.

If you enjoy learning about the history of Holiday World, you might like a copy of our pictorial history book for under the tree this year, signed by author Pat Koch. It’s available on our online HoliShop.

As Santa Jim would say, "Merry Christmas to all!"

Who painted those murals?

Santa murals

Those beautiful Christmas murals in Kringle’s Kafe?

This news report from 1991 reveals all.

(Plus, it highlights some interesting hairstyles.)

Take a careful look at the calendar on Santa’s wall in each mural. There’s one for each day leading up until Christmas Day.
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Will joins Walt in the Theme Park Hall of Fame

When our dear friend Will Koch passed away unexpectedly in June, the outpouring of love and support was amazing.

"He was the next Walt Disney" we heard over and over.

Indeed, Will's wife, Lori, had long ago given him a wonderful portrait of Walt Disney (with a shadow of Mickey) which hung in his office throughout the two decades he was our leader.

She told me recently she knew how inspired Will was by Disney, and she wanted her husband to always feel his presence as he made decisions and plans.

This morning, Will joined Mr. Disney in the Theme Park Hall of Fame.

This tremendous honor was bestowed upon him this morning in Orlando, at the start of the gigantic trade show, called the International Association of Amusement Parks & Attractions (IAAPA) Expo. With more that 25,000 industry members on hand this week to plan for the future of fun, we all paused for a moment to honor our friend Will.

Here's a video that was shot from the audience of the packed hall.

One veteran’s story

Thank you to all the veterans whose devotion to our country has kept us safe and free over the centuries.

In 1916, this young Navy man helped plan a ship-board Christmas party at the Brooklyn Shipyard for underprivileged children.

Since he liked to talk about being from a town near Santa Claus, Indiana, he was asked to play Santa for the children.

After experiencing the love and hope in those children’s eyes, young Jim Yellig made a promise to God, “If you get me through this war, I will forever be Santa Claus.”

Jim Yellig in 1914

And of course, he kept his promise…

Santa Jim Yellig

Santa’s always in fashion

You’ve probably heard they we’re getting ready to give the iconic Santa statue here in town a little touch-up work. After all, the big guy turns 75 next month.

…but a few wrinkles didn’t hold the Man in Red back when the talent scouts came to town.

The folks with the maurices women’s fashion stores were putting together their holiday ad campaign and chose three Christmas-themed towns for their "Hometown Holidays" fashion shoot.

Thing is, you have to back-time this sort of thing.

So the lovely models were bundling up in sweaters, scarves and mittens … in August.

Here they are, on a blistering hot day. Those poor models! Some even had ice packs down the backs of their wooly sweaters.

The second the photographer finished taking shots at a certain angle, he’d bellow, "SHADE!" and a grip would dash over to hold a fashionable parasol over the model’s head.

maurices fashion shoot

It was such a neat trick, I went ahead and tried it.



Sigh. Was worth a try, though.

The crew was great and the models friendly and patient. They quickly moved around town to capture the Santa’s Great Big LED Tree of Lights, Frosty’s Fun Center, Santa’s Candy Castle and Santa’s Lodge.

And look what was mailed out to 2.2 million fashionistas this week:

Our Santa statue made the cover of this mailer!

The maurices chain is in 44 states, with more than 750 stores.

Here’s another portion of the direct-mail flyer:

"Gosh it's hot here in Santa Claus!"

Meanwhile, the Santa statue will get a two-month restoration next summer. Not exactly a face lift or tummy tuck, but his "procedures" will be sure to keep him standing proud here in town for another 75 years.


Move over, test dummies…

…it’s time for the humans to take a ride!

Join William Koch and Mike Graham as they take the first “human ride” on the new Timberliner train on The Voyage.

And yes, it’s really cold out!

A berry by any other name…

Okay, so I Googled "holly berry" so I could correctly state if they grow on a tree or a bush.

Guess what’s listed first?

Or actually, "who"?

Well, of course.

The lovely and talented actress Halle Berry.

Have you even noticed the pretty holly trees (or bushes … I never did finish my research) on either side of the steps into Rudolph’s Reindeer Ranch?

They’re particularly pretty right now.

Holly berries at Holiday World

One smart cookie!

Ryan is amazing.

He's only three years old and he's already been in the paper.

And he's about to be HoliBlogged.

According to the Evansville Courier & Press, Ryan and his folks were finishing up their meal at a Chinese restaurant.

When it was Ryan's turn to break apart his cookie and "read" his fortune, he was prepared:

Mine says we need to go to Holiday World!

Here's a photo of Ryan and his pal Holidog. (Thanks, Ryan's mom, for sending it!)

Ryan and his pal Holidog