Remembering Santa’s Village By Sherree Benoit Bonfield - 10/20/2007 The Daily Journal
Santa's Village, a recent entry into the Images of America series, was written by Crescent City, resident Phillip L. Wenz. It is a nostalgic look back at the former Santa-theme amusement park that was located in Dundee. Wenz, the resident Santa there from 1985 until the park closed after the 2005 season, has amassed an impressive collection of photos and memorabilia from the now defunct park.
Re-creating the North Pole, the Dundee park opened Memorial Day, 1959. This park was the third such park, the first two being located in California. The parks in California were able to be open year-round. The Dundee park, with its harsh winter weather, remained open year-round for only a few seasons. It was then decided to expand this park, hoping that by offering indoor activities during the winter, year-round attendance would be possible. In 1962, a 40,000 square foot indoor ice arena was constructed, the largest of its type in the world at the time. This new attraction enabled the park to offer ice skating lessons, and hockey clinics and games.
As times changed and the visitors wanted more thrilling attractions, the park was once again revamped. Several roller coasters were built. More large rides were added. The reindeer barn was changed to Old McDonald's Farm. The Christmas Around the World Post Office was remodeled to house an arcade. In 1983, one of Illinois' first water parks was added, one of the largest in the state at that time.
Unfortunately, changing with the times couldn't help the struggling park. After a few changes in management, the park fell onto hard times. Taxes needed to be paid.
The lease on the land, which had been home to the park for 46 years, was set to expire in 2008. Sadly, the park closed after the 2005 season, and the nonfixed items were sold at auction. Fortunately, Mr. Wenz was able to acquire many original props. His vast collection of photographs, showcased in this book, recall a happier time in our past. Especially touching are the photos of the early years at the park, when employees dressed like elves, real reindeer were kept on the premises, and attractions at the park were every child's fantasy of Christmas at the North Pole.
This book is a must read for anyone who loves history or Christmas. Mr. Wenz does a wonderful job capturing the innocence of the past, when simple things made childhood happy.
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