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Michigan author takes readers for a ride
By JEAN STARR   - 06/25/2006

The Northwest Indiana News

It's often the details that provide the most interesting journey. And in Arcadia Publishing's "Holiday World," the stories behind the first theme park in America will intrigue amusement park and history fans alike.

Author Jane Ammeson, along with park co-owner Pat Koch, has put together the fascinating story of the Koch family, which still manages Holiday World and Splashin' Safari in Santa Claus, Ind.

"It's a way of making history available to a lot of people," Ammeson said about the book. "It's fun to be in an area and be able to pick up a book like this."

While the southern Michigan resident is not an amusement park person, she's found lots to love about Holiday World. "I love the idea of it being the first amusement park; that it's third generation family-owned, it's clean, and a lot of people in the community work at the park," she said. "It's kind of a throwback in some ways. The owners are walking around picking up litter."

The park is in the middle of nowhere, yet it draws a million visitors each year. While doing research for the book, Ammeson learned about what went on behind-the-scenes at the beginning. The park began as Santa Claus Land in 1946 when founder Louis J. Koch and Santa Jim Yellig welcomed visitors to the park. Bill Koch, Louis' son, married Pat Yellig, daughter of Santa Jim. Pat graduated from high school at age 16 and received a nursing degree while she was a Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent DePaul nun for 10 years. She married Bill Koch in 1960 and the couple had five children. The eldest, Will, is now president of the park.

Ammeson, with the help of Pat Koch and park director of public relations Paula Werne, has packed the book full of photos from the time the town of Santa Claus was put on the map to the addition of rides at Holiday World. A few things that set Holiday World apart, Ammeson said, are the wooden roller coasters and history and literature-based attractions.

There is The Voyage, a wooden coaster recreating the voyage of the Pilgrims that dips and drops and goes underground through the Thanksgiving section of the park. The Legend, in the Halloween section of the park is another wooden coaster that features the Headless Horseman in pursuit of the passengers through "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow."

"It's still pretty much a small town," Ammeson said about Santa Claus.

"Although it's all pretty modern it still has that small town feel."
Publisher: Arcadia Publishing, 2006

FYI: www.holidayworld.com/book.html





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