Monday, August 31 2009
Christmas will be a monthlong celebration this year in this Spencer County town famous for its name and gung-ho-ho spirit.
In past years activities were packed into one weekend.
“This is going to be the event we’ve always wanted but never had,” said Philip Koch, president of Lake Rudolph Campground & RV Resort, coordinating the celebration with Kevin Klosowski of Santa’s Candy Castle.
Activities will begin Nov. 20.
A major addition will be a 1.2-mile “Family Christmas Light Adventure” light show at Lake Rudolph next to Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari theme park.
Costing several hundred thousand dollars and telling the story of Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer, it will feature 35 scenes — each 20 to 30 feet tall — and is being custom built by Carpenter Decorating out of South Carolina.
“I always thought Santa Claus, Ind., should be celebrating Christmas in a tremendous way,” said Koch, “and last year on the Travel Channel I saw some other Bavarian communities (in Georgia and Oregon) that were doing a better job than we were.
“I found myself in the same position my grandfather (Evansville industrialist Louis J. Koch) was in in 1945 when he built Santa Claus Land here to give people something to do.”
Koch said he’s been told the light show will be the largest drive-through attraction of its kind at a campground in North America and the only one featuring an actual story line.
It will use energy-efficient LED lighting.
Plans also call for an illuminated Nativity scene, 23 feet high and 150 feet long, on the theme park’s parking lot — “kind of our gift to the community,” said Koch.
He said the campground 35 miles east of Evansville will involve charities in the light show and charge admission.
Visitors will have the option of staying in their car or renting a golf cart, according to Dave Lovell, marketing director at Lake Rudolph.
Other events during the town’s celebration will include a Nov. 20 tree lighting ceremony, a pre-Christmas dinner at Santa’s Lodge, a puppet show, Christmas Karaoke every Friday and Saturday, an early December parade and contests ranging from Christmas tree decorating and fruit cake eating to gingerbread house building.
Besides the lights at Lake Rudolph, the annual Festival of Lights tour of homes will continue the second and third Saturdays of December in nearby Christmas Lake Village.
There also will be chestnut roasting and performances by area choirs at the Candy Castle, a possible weekend craft show at Lake Rudolph and a wine tasting at Christmas Lake Golf Course.
Koch is asking charities and other organizations interested in running food booths or having entertainment to call (812) 224-1790.
“We want to help everyone in town,” Koch said, “churches, schools, charities, businesses and individuals. We want families to come here and create wonderful memories, to make people happy, raise money for charities and businesses and grow the town of Santa Claus.”
Meanwhile, Koch (three of his siblings own the adjacent theme park) expects to open the new Santa Claus Christmas Store by Labor Day in Kringle Place shopping center here. It’s being developed by his Santa Claus-based HO HO HOldings, which owns the campground.
It’s described as the largest store of its kind in the region and will carry gift items, indoor and outdoor Christmas lights, wreaths, tree trimmings, nativities, Christmas yard art, home decor, collectibles, candy and cookies.
Between Thanksgiving and Christmas children can have their picture taken with St. Nick.
Koch says his goal is to make the town of 2,000 “synonymous with Santa Claus” and “attract people from all over the world to Santa Claus, Ind., no matter the season.”