Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus, Indiana

by Sally Carpenter

In finding a setting for my new series, I wanted to use a small town, as is typical in most cozies. But I didn’t want a generic town or the same city as every other cozy. What could I do that was unique enough to stand out?

 I recalled a town I’d visited as a kid: Santa Claus, Indiana. Being a Christmas junkie myself, it just made sense to model my fictitious cozy town after this one.

 The tiny burg of about 1,000 residents sits among the rolling, wooded hills of south central Indiana, just a few miles north of the Ohio River, the state’s southern border. The town was settled as early as 1846.

 According to local legend, in 1852 the good townsfolk were gathered around a potbelly stove after the Christmas Eve service to try and pick a name for their burg. A wind blew open the church door and revealed a charming scene of falling snowflakes and the sound of sleigh bells. The children ran to the door shouting, “Santa Claus!”

Industrialist Louis J. Koch, who had retired from his business in the nearby big city of Evansville, decided to take advantage of the town’s name. He set up the world’s first theme park—even older than Disneyland. Santa Claus Land opened its gates in 1946.

The park had wooden roller coasters, kiddie rides, live reindeer, a doll museum, artists making glassware, magic and puppet shows, performing animals (this was long before PETA), the Christmas Room restaurant, and a live, year-round Santa Claus, played for many years by Jim Yellig.

Over the years the theme park expanded into the current Holiday World and Splashin’ Safari water park. The park added sections related to other holidays: Fourth of July, Thanksgiving and a non-scary Halloween. Despite the growth, the park is still owned and operated by the Koch family, giving it a non-commercial, hometown appeal.

But the Christmas spirit doesn’t stop with the park. A giant Santa Claus statue stands at the town’s border. The streets have such names as Elf Lane, Fir Tree Circle, Jingle Bell Lane, Madonna Drive, Mistletoe Drive, Ornament Circle and Rudolph Lane.

The local Catholic parish is, of course, St. Nicolas Church.

Each year the town post office receives thousands of letters addressed to Santa. Many people send their Christmas cards through the post office just to receive a special postmark.

As a kid, I was familiar the town, about an hour’s drive from my home, because of the Santa Claus Campground where I attended the summer church camp (the camp is still in operation today with the same buildings). One year, mom picked me up at the end of camp and we visited Santa Claus Land. Unfortunately, we didn’t take any photos nd I don’t remember much about the park.

For my book I recreated my own theme park, the Country Christmas Family Fun Park, where my heroine performs in one of the musical shows. I’ve borrowed a few features from the real Santa Claus Land, but also added new elements of my own. I also had a blast thinking up such establishments for the town as the North Pole Café (a restaurant) and Lollipop Lanes bowling alley.

Many years ago I met a man named Noel. He was born on Dec. 25. I though that was a great name, so naturally I named my heroine Noelle, using the French spelling that I think looks more feminine.

I’m hoping readers will find Yuletide, Indiana as much fun to visit as the real-life Santa Claus, Ind.

 

 

 

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8 Responses to Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus, Indiana

  1. patyjag says:

    Sounds like a fun place to set a mystery series! Good luck with it, Sally!

    Like

    • Thanks, Paty. Someday I’d like to visit the town, although I’m sure the park was changed quite a bit over the years. That area of Indiana has other tourist sites, such as the Lincoln family home, golfing, a state park and a monastery.

      Like

  2. marilynm says:

    I think that’s a great idea!

    Like

  3. Kaye George says:

    I was there years ago and remember seeing Santa Claus water skiing. What a great idea for a setting! Good luck.

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    • Hi, Kaye. I have a book with old photos from Santa Claus Land and the town. Back in the 1950s the park ran a water ski show with professional performers, although the book didn’t have any pictures of Santa on the skis.

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  4. gbpool says:

    As a person with 4000 Santas, I love the idea of setting your series in a place like that. And you can even utilize other holidays if your fictitious berg celebrates year-round events. The possibilities are endless. The Hallmark Channel might be interested since they are big on wholesome stories, both holiday ones and mysteries.

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    • Hi Gayle, I love your holiday decorations at your house. Unfortunately, from what I’ve read, Hallmark only wants contemporary stories and mine is set in 1967. It wouldn’t work in modern day because the story deals with the Cold War and spies. Cold War in a cozy? I made it work! I don’t know her name, but another author has a cozy series in which each book is set in a different holiday.

      Liked by 1 person

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