Evansville Press from Evansville, Indiana on June 22, 1980 · 66
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Evansville Press from Evansville, Indiana · 66

Evansville, Indiana
Issue Date:
Sunday, June 22, 1980
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Life's a holiday at area theme park With tli neak truwitht of July anil Aiibimi By CAROLE RHEINS Suaday staff writer SANTA CLAUS - The 35-fool fiberglass Santa Clausn that stare out onto Interstate 64 and U 41 cannot be denied They look odd bundled up in the glaring June sun Odd because Santa is so exclusively associated with one holiday one season Not like Mickey Mouse or Yogi Bear Forty yean ago Evansville entrepreneur Louis Koch saw Christmas as the ultimate holiday and Santa Claus as the unbeatable attraction for a theme park which opened in 1946 as Santa Claus Land Today his son William sees Santa and Christmas as limiting factors for the park located In Southern Indiana on Ind 162 in Spencer County among rolling farmlands and small burgs That's why the nation's oldest theme park is undergoing landscaping and construction projects for the eventual transformation from Santa Claus Land to Holiday World "Our theme has always been Santa Claus and Christmas" said Koch president of Santa Claus Land "We don't want to lose that but it limits us to one period of the calendar We will gradually expand Holiday World and minimize Santa Claus" The change is already evident and uot all that gradual Three yean Into a 10-year expansion plan Koch expects to finish the landscaping of the 60 acres and construction of new facilities like a game room long before 1987 The words "Holiday World" are already on the air and in print "Enjoy a HOLIDAY WORLD of Fun!" the promotional pamphlets read Ongoing improvements include night lighting newly planted trees and landscaped bills a new entranceway a fountain encircled in brick and a new ride called Thunder Bumpers which are glorified inner tubes with 5-horse power motors The cost of the project so far is 2 million Koch expects to spend anotiwr IS million to 910 million for the total transformation from Santa Claus Land to Holiday World In Holiday World Santa Claus (personified authentically by 66-year-old Jim Yellig Koch's father-in-law) would not take a hike instead he'd be the featured attraction among a variety of holiday "cells" The Fourth id July will be recalled in Independence Square the Liberty Bell Shop and Paul Revere's Midnight Ride formerly the Spider Halloween will mean a haunted house and witches Other holidays an yet to he designated but most of the major ones will be mentioned in some way And to legitimise the package Koch wants a small resource library and librarian on hand "We're going to start our own library on all the With the peak months of July and August ahead attendance is already more than 23 percent up over last year Aloog with the grounds improvements during ' the last couple of years efforts have been focused on Improving the entertainment This year's new I entertainment manager is Arte Bausman a )1-year-old amiable redhead from Dayton Ohio : Bailsman cut his teeth In the theme-park business as a magician at Guntown Mountain in Cave City Ky and Kaintuck Territory in Benton Ky He still pulls doves out of hats twice a day at Santa Claus Land but his major responsibility Is seeing that the shows go on "Theme-park entertainment is comfortable all-American and lively" he said "I want the audience to feel satisfied to lea ve In a good mood" From 16:49 am to 4:49 pm audiences see a brand of show business that is something of a crass between The New Christy Minstrel Singers and the Ding Dong School A 30-minute musical revue with a circus theme a 19-minute country music show a puppet show and a demonstration of trained macaws Dressed in pastel checkered cowboy shirts snd white pants and matching dresses for the females the troupe id six men and four women are paid $266 for a 46-hour week which includes operating rides TO some Santa Claus Land is a long way from Opryland Ti Thunder Bumpers is one of several additions at the park holidays celebrated in the United States" Koch said "We want to be an authoritative source It’s basically a backup To gain respect" TO gain respect is essential in revitalising the park In many minds Santa Claus Land is still a kiddie park Too many adults remember when it wn a rag-tag operation "Quite frankly we struggled in the early years — did everything to save a buck" Koch said "Ill not my intent to be a major ride park I'd like a roller coaster but not the competitive thrill rides” "Musical entertainment like Opryland that's where we’re going" But sang and dance alone want be enough to bring in the needed traffic Koch is a proponent erf a north-south ton road In western Indiana which would opes Holiday World to Indianapolis and even Chicago traffic Even a highway is not enough Hotels motels and rented cottages must follow Campsites on Lake Rudolph wont contain overnight visitors to Holiday World Funk laid “We're building a city of 12900 to be reached around the 20th century” he said Right now Santa Claus Ind a separate entity from the park numbers about 900 In 1969 a housing division called Christmas Lake Village was developed with 2200 lots The lots all sold but only 229 houses have been built The next project is Holiday Village north of Santa Claus with about 1900 lots "We’re coming up withabeautiful way of life— recreational facilities an industrial pari — we're putting it all together” he said Koch has Ms dreams His wife Patricia calls him an eternal optimist A 1937 graduate of Purdue University he worked at the family business George Koch t Sons and as a naval architect during World War II Koch’s office walls are hung with awards and commendations There he is shaking hands with Richard Nixon in I960 There he is standing In the Oval Office while President Kennedy signed the OK for Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial a pet pwvMCI Ol jUICflS His goal for Holiday World la to attract 1 million visitors per year by 1990 Attendance projection for Santa Claus Land in 1900 is 290000 I can’t believe these audiences They just sit there” said one of the men "I mean we are just milking these people for applause It's like they don’t know what their supposed to da” In the past the clientele was largely rural farmers and their families who lived in the surrounding counties Koch sees Holiday World expanding the market CeeU Hardesty of Brandenburg KyH makes the bour-and-a-half drive each year to take his three boys ages 9 12 and 14 to Santa Claus Land "We went to Disney World back in December and we couldnt do nothing” he said “It was wall-to-wall people standing in line two hours for a ride Here we can turn the boys loose without worrying" If Koch's plan succeeds It may be because people like Cecil Hardesty don't want to bother with the madness of the big league parks Holiday World would be closer than Disney World less coujested than Six Flags Over Mid-America not is spread out as Kina's Island "1 want Holiday World to be beautiful in every' thing — landscaping costumes architecture and 'Koch sai i said "When people leave I warn them to say "That was a beautiful place” Bill Koch still believes in Santa Claus Dear boy tugs at toy doe Pictures by Bill Kyle Sunday staff photographer ' Rides and shows aimed at families with youngsters 2 The Sunday Uok Juno 22 1980

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