From Santa Claus Land to Holiday World
SANTA CLAUS, IN -----The history of the nation's first theme park is the story of a family which has, for three generations, dedicated itself to providing millions of guests with good, old-fashioned family fun.
Evansville, Indiana, industrialist Louis J. Koch created the nation's first theme park as a retirement project. He was troubled that the tiny hamlet of Santa Claus, Ind., was visited by children who were ultimately disappointed when they found out Santa was not there. With nine children of his own, Koch loved children, holidays and celebrations.
Santa Claus Land opened on August 3, 1946; the theme park included a toy shop, toy displays, themed children's rides, a restaurant, and, of course, Santa.
When Koch's son Bill returned from World War II, he was curious to see his father's project. After overcoming doubts about the park's viability, Bill soon became the head of Santa Claus Land. In 1960, Bill married "Santa's daughter," Patricia Yellig; he remained active in the family business until his death in 2001. Bill and Pat had five children; the eldest, Will, is the president of Holiday World & Splashin' Safari.
Over the decades, Santa Claus Land flourished. Children from across the country came to sit on the real Santa's knee and talk glowingly about their Christmas wishes. Guests included Ronald Reagan, who stopped by in 1955.
As the park expanded, the Koch family knew that Christmas was not the only theming possibility for the park. In 1984, Santa Claus Land grew to include Halloween and 4th of July sections, and the park's name was changed to Holiday World. Larger rides were added; in all, Holiday World features 100 acres of rides, shows, games, and attractions.
In 1993, Splashin' Safari Water Park was added; it now includes 23 acres and features two wave pools, two action rivers, family raft rides, numerous water slides, plus several interactive family-waterplay complexes. The park also offers free sunscreen and free use of inner tubes.
Holiday World introduced The Raven wooden roller coaster in 1995. Located in the Halloween section, The Raven doesn't break any height or speed records, yet has been voted one of the world's top wooden coasters each year since it opened. The Legend wooden roller coaster, added in 2000, has been voted a top-ten wooden coaster ever since. The same year, Holiday World became the first park in the world to provide free, unlimited soft drinks.
In 2009, the World's Tallest Water Ride, Pilgrims Plunge, debuts. The shoot-the-chute ride takes riders 13 stories up in an open-air elevator then down a record 131-foot drop in 10-passenger boats, creating a big splash.
In 2010, Holiday World & Splashin' Safari will add the world's longer water coaster. Located north of Bahari wave pool, Wildebeest will begin with a conveyor ride up the water coaster’s lifthill. Following the 38-foot drop at a 45-degree angle, linear induction motors (LIMs) will propel the four-person rafts up seven additional hills, through three tunnels and around a helix. Wildebeest will cover more than two acres, increasing the water park’s size to 27 acres.
Children and Comfort are the themes for the 2011 additions to Holiday World & Splashin' Safari. New for children are Safari Sam's SplashLand and Rudolph's Round-Up. Plymouth Rock Cafe will now have air-conditioned dining. A new "cashless" system has been implemented using HoliCash gift cards and wristbands. Additional shade, seating, lockers, WiFi hotspots and restrooms have also been added.
Throughout its existence, Holiday World has set high standards for the theme park industry, with a steadfast adherence to the values established in the company's cornerstones: safety, service, cleanliness and friendliness. Visit their website.
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