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Monday, April 19, 2021

Lighting the skies over Santa Claus

by Kathy Tretter

Mike Johannes had an epiphany!

Readers will likely relate to the circumstances surrounding said epiphany.

Mike, who is President of both the Santa Claus Town Council and America’s Christmas Hometown (a non-profit promoting the Town of Santa Claus), was watching one of those holiday movies involving a European prince (probably from some obscure country no one has ever heard of) and a wedding in an English castle. Just FYI, he was watching this masterpiece (not to be confused with Masterpiece Theater) with his wife, which is likely the only reason this Hallmark-esque movie was the entertainment of choice at the Johannes house.

The big finale panned a great room in the castle and through what was surely an arched window in this room Mike spotted fireworks exploding in the night.

He had been wrestling with how to replace the many Christmas events folks from near and far (but especially those who are near) enjoy in his town during the month of December. The Craft Show had been canceled. Ditto the massive parade.

Some events would continue, such as writing letters to Santa in the town’s historic Post Office and Museum (one family at a time and you’ll receive a response by Christmas!) and roasting chestnuts over an open fire at the Candy Castle (by reservation only).

In addition, guests can still drive through Christmas Lake Village for the Festival of Lights, a free, self-guided (in your own vehicle) excursion featuring nine miles of themed residential light displays (on two Saturdays, December 12 and 19), as well as the Santa Claus Land of Lights, also a drive-thru extravaganza telling the true story of Rudolph via brilliant LED light displays (multiple nights through New Year’s).

But Saturday, December 12 — always the second Saturday in December — has also been the largest day of festivities in the town that celebrates Christmas 365 days every year.

Events are still planned for that day.

Santa Claus himself is pausing during his busiest time of year to visit the only town in the United States that bears his name. Visitors can enjoy a safe, socially distanced visit with that right jolly old elf who will be seated in the back of a decorated classic pick-up truck located outside Evergreen Boutique and Christmas Store (8 North Kringle Place) to greets guests from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Central. 

Hint: Bring your phone or camera to snap photos of your child’s visit.

Also on the 12th, for those who have a bit of energy to burn, make your way to the Santa Claus Community Center (200 N Holiday Blvd.) by 3 p.m. CST, decked in your holiday best. The festive 5K Brew Ho Ho Fun Run (sponsored by St. Benedict’s Brew Works) encourages Christmas attire, so show off your best Santa, Mrs. Claus, Grinch, or other holiday-themed costume and then plan to run like the wind. Prizes will be awarded for top finishers and best-dressed individuals and teams. Race Root Beer, hot chocolate, and treats will be available after the race. Registration fee is $30 per person and includes a long-sleeved T-shirt. Register online ASAP for this heart-pumping, healthy way to celebrate the season.

Throughout the day, several food trucks will be available to staunch hunger pangs and quench thirst, including Auntie Anne’s Pretzels, The Cheese Queen, Rock-A-Burger, and possibly 2 Guys and a Kettle.

But Johannes still wanted something special to cap the day and that fireworks display outside the castle window provided the inspiration. “What if,” he wondered, “we could mount a fireworks display with a Christmas theme?”

One problem would be paying for it. As mentioned previously, America’s Christmas Hometown is a non-profit. The money made from the Craft Show pays to advertise the event and Parade entries cover the cost of trophies — and neither event would be happening in 2020.

Melissa Arnold, Executive Director of Spencer County Tourism, notes, “This has been a challenging year and so many events had to be canceled. America’s Christmas Home Town wanted to make the best of it and create some new family traditions.”

The lack of funds did not stop Johannes after inspiration struck. Why not find sponsors?

Like someone famous once said, “If you wish it, it will come true.” Or maybe someone famous never said that but it fits the situation.

A massive Christmas-themed fireworks display will light the skies over Santa Claus this Saturday, December 12, at 5 p.m. Central, thanks to generous donations from Cunningham Golf and Utility Vehicles of Louisville, Kentucky (title sponsor) and Holiday Foods (supporting sponsor) to cap off the annual Santa Claus Christmas Celebration.

Arnold says, “If you’re looking for safe and socially distanced seasonal fun, fireworks are a perfect choice. Parking for the fireworks display will be in Holiday World’s Legend parking lot (face your car north). Enjoy the magical display from the warmth and comfort of your own car… plus, be sure to tune in your radio to hear coordinated Christmas music!”

(If you choose to watch the display from outside your vehicle, masks are required.)

Johannes says, “This new event is something people remember — a part of a new tradition.” 

Other stuff to do:

Start the day with breakfast with Santa at 7 a.m. Central at the Historic Santa Claus Campground. Take pictures with Mr. and Mrs. Claus, enjoy a sit-down breakfast of all-you-can-eat pancakes, donut holes, sausage links and a beverage. A curb-side to-go breakfast will also be available.

Stop and watch Santa’s Giant LED Tree of Lights perform a choreographed light show in Kringle Place Shopping Center. 

Explore the grounds at the Santa Claus Museum & Village and pose for a family photo in front of the 22-foot-tall Santa statue. 

Treat yourself to delectable homemade confections from the historic Santa’s Candy Castle. 

See how many Santa statues you can spot throughout the town. HINT: there are more than 15!

Share your holiday spirit through the mail! Hand-cancel holiday mail with the one-and-only Santa Claus Postmark from the only post office with the Santa Claus name.

Shop for Christmas gifts and keepsakes at the Santa Claus Christmas Store, Evergreen Boutique & Christmas Shop, and Santa’s TOYS. 

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