You might think that once the front gates close at the end of the season, we don’t see another Guest until the next summer.
Taking a walk through the (mostly) still and silent park will tell you a completely different story though.
During the off-season, we play host to Guests of a different kind.
Often they have four legs instead of two and are quite furry. Some even come with antlers or horns.
Sure, there are the usual rabbits and squirrels that seemingly appear out of every nook and cranny as soon as the human Guests exit. Wait just a few days more, though, and some much larger Guests begin to drop in.
Much to my surprise this morning, a golf car ride to the back of the park to photograph Mammoth construction put me smack dab in the middle of a herd of deer.
I was making quite a racket with my gas-powered car sputtering down one of our crunchy gravel service roads. Seeing a fall-leaves photo opportunity I just couldn’t pass up, I came to a stop to get some shots. After a couple clicks of the shutter, I heard some movement in the brambles on the other side of my car.
As I turned to look, I realized staring right back at me was a pair of big brown eyes and a little set of antlers.
Was this some kind of joke? Did we get a delivery of Wildebeest look-a-likes to stage around the World’s Longest Water Coaster and somebody set them in the woods as a prank? After a brief pause, locking eye to eye, my friend darted out of the brambles and up the hill toward the Wildebeest.
Nope, definitely not a mascot. Now I realized there were two of them; then two deer quickly doubled to four, and soon this small herd was trying to formulate an exit strategy to get away from me.
With their heads quickly turning left to right and back again it looked like there was an invisible tennis match going on behind me. Finally, my deer friends made their decision and dashed toward the Mammoth construction site.
They must have noticed the "Hard Hats Required" sign because they quickly side-stepped a parked forklift and pranced their way up the road before disappearing into the woods again.
It was fun coming face to face with today’s Guests. I only wish they would have stopped long enough for me to i nform them their long-lost relatives no longer lived at the park. – Nathan Ryder, Communications Manager
…Nathan's story about meeting up with these deer reminded me of a story Bill Koch told me long ago.
In the very first years of Santa Claus Land, the park added a Deer Farm. Much hullabaloo was made about the deer's upcoming arrival. Word came at the last minute that the deer would be a few days late; there was no time (this was long before websites, Facebook and Twitter) to advise visitors ahead of time.
Mr. Koch printed flyers that stated, "Oh, dear – No deer!" and handed them out at the entrance, inviting visitors to return on the day of their choice to view the deer free of charge.
The first deer to arrive were named Donner, Blitzen, Comet and Cupid. This was in 1948, when the park was just two years old. Eventually there were 14 European white fallow deer.
That's Mrs. Koch's dad, Santa Jim, in the photo. Did you know we have a Facebook page for Santa Jim? We also have a Santa Claus Land page and there's one for the Santa Claus Museum, too. We hope you enjoy these stories and photos as much as we do.
We hold them … um … near and deer to our hearts. – Paula Werne, Director of Communications