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'Tis the Season for Santa Claus Christmas weekends in the town of Santa Claus, Indiana

Photos by Marlena Sloss | Story by Candy Neal

It’s fun to visit the place where it’s Christmas all year long.

But when it’s the Christmas season, the town of Santa Claus is THE place to be.

During the December weekends before Christmas, this community of 2,400 people welcomes thousands of visitors for activities planned to celebrate the season.

Last Saturday alone, people were treated to meals with Santa, starting with breakfast, an ongoing arts and crafts show, and a Christmas play by the Lincoln Boyhood Drama Association.

And that was just the first half of the day.

Sarah Whitehurst, 13, of Huntingburg, runs with Dream, a miniature horse, after the parade in Santa Claus on Dec. 14. Sarah participated in the parade with a group of miniature horses led by Sandi Bair of Haysville. They won the most original award.
Katie Kachnavage, 7, of Salem, center, reaches for snow-like foam during the parade.
Mrs. Claus and Santa Claus wave during the parade.

“You can’t help but get into a festive mood,” said Diane Anderson of Owensboro, Kentucky. “They are celebrating everywhere. Everybody is smiling, laughing, having a good time. This is what Christmas should be like.”

Anderson was with her daughters in the Christmas Store, waiting for ornaments to be personalized. They come up every year to get specialized ornaments for their tree at home. So far that day, they’d been to the craft fair and the Santa Claus Museum and Village. They wanted to make sure to pick up ornaments while the store was open, before getting involved in more activities.

“Having unique ornaments will bring back good memories,” Anderson said. “Getting them from Santa Claus will make the memory even better.”

Plenty of people were swarming about town in the morning. By mid-afternoon, crowds could be found everywhere: at Kringle Place Shopping Center perusing stores, at St. Nicholas Catholic Church partaking in German food and baked goods, at Heritage Hills High School watching the Lincoln Boyhood Drama Association’s production of “Scrooge’s Christmas,” at Heritage Hills Middle School attending the craft show, and chatting with Santa at the Christmas Store.

Gavin Perkl, 7, of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, gets his face painted by Madison Begle, 16, of Santa Claus, at Evergreen Boutique and Christmas Shop.
Jackson Hardy, 12, of Louisville, Kentucky, reaches for the football during a scrimmage with friends near the Kringle Place Shopping Center. Jackson’s family comes to Santa Claus for a weekend every December, and the trip has grown to include other families. The children get matching shirts every year.
Trenton Hill, 16, left, Zach Fortune, 18, Alicia Fortune, 12, and Shelby Miller, 18, all of Santa Claus, pray before performing in the play “Scrooge’s Christmas” at Heritage Hills High School in Lincoln City. The play was presented by the Lincoln Boyhood Drama Association.

Santa’s Candy Castle was almost bursting at the seams. Children were sitting in a circle at computers, chatting with an elf on the North Pole Network.

“Ok, I put in my access code,” 8-year-old Jeremy Kornegay of Evansville said, his father Henry standing over him. Jeremy used one finger to put in the code, making sure no one else saw. And then his fingers flew across the keyboard, until he finished his conversation with the North Pole elf.

“That was cool,” he said afterward. “It was pretty easy. I asked him if it was cold there, and told him it wasn’t that cold here.

“Now it’s time for some candy, right dad?”

“Just two things,” his father said, and Jeremy took off, looking at the different candies that lined the wall.

Candy, hot chocolate, popcorn. People got plenty of that at the castle. And soon, kids would get more candy at the town parade.

Skyler Engelmeyer of Newburgh poses with his Christmas-themed suit during the parade.

People started lining up along the parade route – North Holiday and Louis J. Koch boulevards – an hour early. Many parked at Kringle Place Shopping Center and businesses’ lots near Town Hall. They staked out places along the route, placing their portable seats and blankets on the green grass along the roads.

Anna Price led her two young children to the seats she had. She drove to the area from Virginia on Friday, with the goal of going to the different activities in Santa Claus, and planned to spend the next day in Louisville.

“This is our first time here,” she said. “We’ve been here since this morning. It’s been a lot of fun, and a lot to see.”

Both the kids had their faces painted like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, complete with bright red paint on their noses. They were excited, and kept bouncing up from their seats to see around the corner, waiting for the parade to start.

In the distance, police sirens sounded.

“Hear that? It’s starting,” Price told them. They got up again and stood at the road’s edge, craning their heads to see something.

Finally, the police cars came up the road, turned by Town Hall and drove past them. The kids grinned.

Miniature horses that participated in the parade had their hooves decorated with glitter.

The almost hourlong parade featured various Christmas floats, firetrucks, pickups and tractors, horses, and plenty of walkers and riders throwing candy to spectators. The kids picked up as much candy as they could get. The Heritage Hills High School band played “Here Comes Santa Claus,” and was followed by a jolly Santa and Mrs. Claus. The North Pole-based couple waved excitedly to the crowd, shouting, “Merry Christmas!” and Christmas cheer to all the excited children who screamed and waved back.

After the parade, Price took the kids to the Santa Claus Post Office to write a letter to Santa. Other children were there with their parents, making the post office pretty packed. Santa’s elves were on hand to help the kids write their letters.

Courtni Lime, 7, of Defiance, Ohio, writes a letter to Santa Claus as her grandparents, Jane and John Lime, watch over her at the historic post office. Children who write letters to Santa Claus at the post office will receive a reply from “Santa Claus” in December written by volunteers at the Santa Claus Museum and Village.
Kristin Anderson of Boonville holds letters she brought to mail from the post office with hand-canceled stamps. Each year the post office chooses a unique design drawn by a local high school student for their stamp. Anderson, a teacher, sent the letters from Santa Claus to her special needs preschoolers.

Courtni Lime, 7, received help with her letter from her grandparents, John and Jane Lime. She expressed in her letter her love for LOL Surprise! toys, which are sets of balls that have little dolls and accessories inside.

“I want a pet LOL. I want a baby LOL,” Courtni said she wrote. “Is Rudolph real? And I want my two front teeth.”

She then grinned to show off that her two front teeth were, in fact, missing.

The Limes traveled from Defiance, Ohio, to participate in the festivities.

“We came down last year and went to Evansville,” John said. “When we got here it was late, so we missed some things.”

“We came back to bring Courtni,” Jane said.

John said they are in a motorcycle club, and have gotten club members interested enough that the club is planning to come next year. “It’s not that far away,” John said. “It will be a nice ride for us.”

When daylight turned to night, new parades started. These were made of cars parading through areas that were lit with Christmas lights.

Cars drive through the Santa Claus Land of Lights display at Lake Rudolph Campground.
The drive-through outdoor light show tells the story of Rudolph through lights and storyboards.

The Festival of Lights took riders through Christmas Lake Village to see the brightly decorated homes. Some neighborhoods in the village had themes, like polar bears, Frosty the Snowman, shepherds, and the Grinch. Others used their own themes, like Mickey Mouse, Charlie Brown and Snoopy, and reindeer. There were also homes that had light displays coordinated to music that people could tune in to on the radio.

At Lake Rudolph Campground, riders were treated to plenty of twinkling lights as part of the Santa Claus Land of Lights.

People drove through archways of lights to see different Christmas scenes, like elves checking and filling Christmas gifts, Rudolph working out on a treadmill to get ready for his annual flight around the world, and Santa Claus with his reindeer.

The lines were long to get into both. But both were sure to wow those who took the time to visit.

Chestnuts roast over an open fire at Santa’s Candy Castle. Kevin Klosowski of Santa Claus has led instruction and history on roasting chestnuts for 14 years, and loves teaching visitors about the tradition.

“It was neat to see all those lights. There had to be thousands of them,” Craig Whittler said as he waited for chestnuts to be roasted over an open fire at Santa’s Candy Castle. The 24-year-old Louisville man came with some of his friends to see the lights. “It did not disappoint,” he said. “Totally worth the trip.”

Yes, Santa Claus is THE place to be on a December weekend. But there’s only one more weekend of celebrations — this weekend. After all, Santa needs time to get ready for his Christmas Eve travel plans.

Children listen to Santa Claus and his elf helper read “Twas the Night Before Christmas” at Santa’s Lodge. After storytime, the children had milk and cookies with Santa.