Memories of coaster names

1995 Brochure cover

We call it The Name Game here.

Whenever we have something new, it needs a name.

Over the years, we’ve spent untold hours coming up with themed names for attractions, restaurants, shops, and games.

When our friends at CoasterRadio podcast asked me to call in to talk about how we came up with our coaster names, the memories started swirling. (Please keep in mind these are my memories; other memories’ mileage may vary.)

To illustrate a few of my stories, let’s start off with the ride simply called Roller Coaster:

Children's Roller Coaster

When I shared this photo with Duane from (check out the site if you don’t already have this great roller-coaster resource bookmarked), he determined it was a Little Dipper coaster made by the Allan Herschell Company.

By the way, that was a posed photo with Santa Claus while the coaster was not in operation.

Someday I’ll take the time to figure out when that coaster graced the grounds at Santa Claus Land and for how long.

Here are a few seconds of the coaster from a film shot in the late 1960s:

While talking about naming The Raven, we discussed our 1995 brochure cover photo.

Notice anything different about the train?

1995 Brochure cover

When we chatted about naming Thunderbird, our 66 Days at Sea teaser campaign was mentioned.

More memories …

66 Days at Sea

Before we finish up here, I’d like to share the link to CoasterRadio’s “The Greatest Roller Coaster Name of All Time” poll. There are some outstanding names in the running (including our Raven and Voyage). Please take a look!
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Happy Birthday, Santa Jim!

Santa Claus

He was born on February 18, 1894.

Santa Jim.

Santa Claus

Countless children whispered in Santa’s ear over his decades wearing the red suit here at Santa Claus Land.

The story of how Jim (a great grandfather of our fourth-generation park owners) became Santa will quite possibly bring a tear to your eye.

And here he is in 1954, in a Chrysler commercial! (Be sure to turn up the sound for the full effect.)

Click over here for more Santa Jim stories, photos and videos from over the years.

Do you have a Santa Jim memory? Please post it below in the Comments section.
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#FlashbackFriday: 1955 Chrysler Commercial

Chrysler commercial

It’s #FlashbackFriday again and we found an amazing piece of Santa Claus Land history to share with you.

This is the “Chrysler TV Caravan,” with a commercial touting their 1955 “hundred-million-dollar gift” – a new Chrysler!

Don’t miss Santa Jim waving at the end. (He’s one of our 4th generation owners’ great-grandfathers.)

Of course, this is usually his vehicle of choice:

Santa Jim at the Chateau

In this photo, Santa and his sleigh are in front of his family’s Chateau restaurant in nearby Mariah Hill. A more modern version is still there.

Do you enjoy seeing these flashbacks from our archives? What else would you like to see? Be sure and post your ideas below.
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#FlashbackFriday to 1984

Santa Claus Land logo

Does anyone scrapbook the old-fashioned way any more? It used to be such a thing that the noun became a verb.

Nowadays, the digital form of scrapbooking is so handy, with the ability to share old photos with virtually anyone worldwide.

Throughout our 73-year history, there’s always been someone taking photos. They’re tucked away in file folders, like glorious Easter Eggs waiting to be discovered.

This one, for example, is just perfect for #FlashbackFriday:

Aerial shot of Holiday World in 1984

Although there’s no date on the back of this aerial photo, we’re pretty sure it was taken during the winter/spring of 1984.

How did we come up with that year?

The most telling hint is Frightful Falls. It appears to be under construction (it opened in 1984). It doesn’t look like the lift hill or the station is built yet.

The ring of beautiful evergreens in the bottom right corner of the photo encircles the roller coaster that was named:

  • Blitzen, through 1983
  • Firecracker, starting in 1984 until it was retired from Holiday World in 1998

Do you enjoy peeking back into our history?

If so, here’s a Park Timeline that includes the years that various attractions were added, plus other fun facts about our history.

Last weekend, we posted this Santa Claus Land commercial on our Facebook page, asking for guesses about which year it aired:

Here’s how we figured out that the year was 1977:

  • It promotes Santa Claus Land, meaning it was 1983 or earlier
  • The map shows I-64, which opened in our area in the fall of 1976
  • The featured dad in the commercial was our Entertainment Director at the time; Dave confirmed on our Santa Claus Land page on Facebook that 1977 sounded about right (he also confirmed that he was wearing a pair of exceptionally en vogue Sansabelt Slacks)

We’ll occasionally dip into the vault and release other archival footage, photos, and articles at #FlashbackFriday posts here. Would you like to receive HoliBlog notices – along with news releases and sweepstakes – by email? Sign up here and you can choose whether to receive the emails weekly or the same day the blog posts are published. Thank you!

Podcast: The one with the Griswolds

Taylor Bybee

Once we move to our “Now Open Weekends” schedule,  references to “the Moose Out Front” abound.

… because just about everyone has seen National Lampoon’s Vacation at least once.

And, believe it or not, this vehicle was actually parked in our lot a few years ago (during the 30th-anniversary summer of the film’s release).

Griswolds' Car

And so, we sadly have to reenact that scene at least once or twice every August.

This year, at least the uncomfortable conversation was able to be handled on social media with this particular (new) member of the Griswold family:

Taylor Bybee

We hope you enjoy Coaster Studio‘s Taylor Bybee’s story:

As we move into our Amusings segment, we hear about young Sawyer’s first rides at his family’s park.

Here’s the favorite snap from the day

Sawyer likes the camera

Those two incredibly cute Facebook shares with young performers? #SoundUp

Both in-park:

… and at home (the privacy setting allowed a share but not an embed, so you can watch the video here on our Facebook page).

"Magic In Me"

From two cute little girls to … The Hammer:

The Hammer

The Hammer is flanked by VP Eric to the left and Sales Director Dave to the right.

Our mail-order catalog from back in our early Santa Claus Land days is so much fun to read:

Santa Claus Land catalog

Thinking about joining us for Rock the World? It’s coming up on August 25!

In our #HoWoPo Feedback segment, there was quite the discussion about our Gluten-Free Funnel Cake:

Gluten-Free Funnel Cake

Speaking of treats, here’s Katelyn’s tweet:


Looks like a couple of ACEers, fresh off a ride on The Raven:

Three Men & A Holidog:

Here’s the link to that Indianapolis Star article about our TripAdvisor ranking.

We all just loved this tweet:

Two ways to cool off with a frozen treat

Thumbs up to this group of engineers-to-be:

The Coaster Crew made us laugh once more:


We don’t often post photos from our 25 Degrees of Separation game, but we had to make an exception with Cousin Jeff and LaurenAnna:

HoliWood Nights at Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari     LaurenAnna

Both parks are open weekends – come see us soon!

A king, a queen, and a clown

Billy and Ruth's Toy Headquarters promo

In the Communications Office space, we have a sizable storage room that houses our publicity archives.

This storage room used to be the park’s dark room. (Back when photos were taken using large cameras and black-and-white film, they were developed … in a “dark room.”)

We don’t have to tell you how photography has changed over the years, and especially the past decade or so. (You’ve seen what our HoliDrone has captured over the season, right?)

… but still, there’s something rather mysterious about digging through our archives and discovering a black-and-white photo like this:

Billy and Ruth's Toy Headquarters promo

We recognize Santa, of course. That’s Santa Jim. This photo was taken on October 18, 1959, in the room at Santa Claus Land where Santa visited with countless children over the decades.

Upon further research, we discovered that this photo was the culmination of a “Billy & Ruth Day” promotion. Children from all over entered this promotion for a chance to win a 26″ Deluxe Bicycle by drawing a picture of Santa Claus.

Who’s that clown on the left?

That’s Peppo the Clown, from WEHT-TV in Evansville. A 2014 article from the Evansville Courier & Press reveals Peppo was actually Chicagoan Ulysses A. Carlini, Sr. Mr. Carlini endured the 30-minute application of clown makeup each Saturday morning because he knew the kiddos watching from home enjoyed his show.

The children who won the promotion were “King Billy” David Risinger, 11, and “Queen Ruth” Gloria Majors, 10, both of Evansville. In addition to winning bicycles, they were guests on Peppo’s TV show.

Here’s a quote from that week’s “Bish Thompson” Saturday Special column in the Evansville Press: Throughout the day there’ll be events of bugeyed interest to the small fry. If they’ve been yammering to go to Santa Claus, looks like tomorrow will be the day for it.

But wait! There were second-place winners, too:

Billy and Ruth's Toy Headquarters promotion

That’s Reed Sugg, 6, from Morganfield, Kentucky, holding his Lionel Train Set prize and Becky Holbrook, 11, from Owensboro, Kentucky, with a 36″ doll. (They don’t look quite as happy as King Billy and Queen Ruth, though, do they?)

And who’s that peeking through the window behind the two fellows? And, for that matter, who were Billy and Ruth? (Google keeps trying to convince me their last name was Graham, but I know that’s not right!) Billy and Ruth Steltz’s father owned the company in Philadelphia that provided catalogs to a series of hardware stores across the land. One of those publications, starting in 1929, was “Happy Hours with Billy and Ruth,” a magazine-like toy catalog sprinkled with children’s stories, poems, and even connect-the-dots puzzles.

We hope you enjoy these stories as we occasionally lose ourselves in our history. Please post a comment if there’s any topic you’d like us to explore, either here on the HoliBlog or on our podcast.




Your daily floss

Long ago, my oldest son explained to me the difference between a “geek” and a “nerd.” Tom now works at JPL (which you may recognize from The Big Bang Theory), so whatever he told me then was no doubt correct.

Thing is, I don’t exactly remember what he said …

But whether you’re a geek or a nerd, if you like fun facts, I think this “27 Fun Facts About Fun” video from Mental Floss magazine will do the trick (be sure to catch #18!).

Do you remember Santa Claus Land? Please post your favorite memory here!

Photographic memories

A lovely email from longtime friends:

My family has been going to your park for many, many years. My grandparents used to visit back when you were called Santa Claus Land. Generations have come and gone to your park. For the second time we will be taking my daughter to your park to celebrate her birthday. She will be 14 this year, and when asked what or where she would like to go for her birthday, your park was the first place she picked.

Anyway, I was going through my parents’ old photo albums gathering pictures that we wanted to scan for preservation, and I found these two pictures that I wanted to share with you. They were developed in November 1955, but I do not know the date of the visit. One picture is of my uncle and cousins…

…and the other is of my grandmother, her sister, and their mother (my great-grandmother).

So when I tell you that many generations from our family have visited, I wasn’t kidding.

Thanks so very much for all the past and future memories!

Becky C.
Bloomington, Indiana

We’re still Santa Claus Land to some


Whoever wrote this headline not only took a time-machine ride back to the 1960s … they also physically moved the park to the south and west! (In that case, shouldn’t it be Evansville Land?)

You may notice the article was written by Mrs. Koch’s pictorial history book co-author. Poor Jane is beside herself. First her oldest heads off to college, and now this.

My absolute favorite Santa Claus Land headline was back in 1992, when the park had been Holiday World for an entire decade.

It was my first season with the park and we’d had great fun with the bungee show and rides we offered. It was located where the high-dive show used to be (and still exists). If you look around behind the high-dive seating, you can still see the footers that were put in for the bungee tower.

The plan was always to offer bungee jumping for a single season. Then back to the high-dive show.

But when, toward the season’s end, a newspaper article ran about the bungee show, the big hook was that we were not going to continue it in 1994.

Never planned to.

Told you.

But it was more exciting to write about the “big decision,” apparently.

The wire service picked up the story and it ran all over the place.

My budget nearly exploded as the clipping service mailed us boxes and boxes of clips.

The headlines varied wildly as those are written by someone on each paper’s staff. But the one I’ll never forget, for its absurdity, was:

Santa Claus Land Rids Self of Bungee Nightmare

Now that’s creative writing!

Yum, yum, yum!

Anyone else out there a cornball who loves to listen to old radio shows from the ’40s?

I grew up hearing my folks talk about Fibber McGee‘s closet, Jack Benny‘s squeaky violin, and Baby Snooks‘ antics.

Thanks to satellite radio those shows are available again, 60 years later.

And the commercials are a hoot. Either the plugs are non-too-subtly inserted into the script or the cracky, nasally voice of Henry Aldrich belts out a jingle.

Tums for the tummy. And Jell-O, yum, yum, yum!

A Kraft Foods employee emailed the other day, so pleased to see in our pictorial history book that Santa long ago posed for an advertisement with a variety of products, including Jell-O.

Santa Jim and Jello

Upon closer inspection, it appears that it was Jell-O pie filling.

Lemon pie filling to be exact.

Mrs. Koch might need a slice of pie to keep her energy up as she autographs all those books, which are available in our shops and through our website.