July 8, 2009

It's Christmas in July at Santa's Village!

I guess that I should have titled this post, 'It WAS Christmas in July at Santa's Village!' because it is, sadly, no longer there amongst the pines of Skyforest, California. Well, technically, it does still exist. Only, it hasn't been open since 1998 and what's left is falling into total ruins! The parking lot IS being used for a lumber yard, however. I wonder what they call that, Paul Bunyan's Village? It really is heartbreaking that after 43 years of bringing the enchantment of Santa Claus and the wonder of Christmas to life, it all just ended. Closed for business. Will return at... never o'clock! They just walked away and left it sitting there, discarded like some old worn-out shoe. It somehow seems even more depressing that it wasn't torn down, but was instead left for vandals and the elements to slowly devour.

Having been to Santa's Village only twice, once as a child and another as an adult, I am especially grateful for those memories now. The park's Grand Opening took place Memorial Day weekend in 1955, only 6 weeks before Walt opened the gates to Disneyland. But I didn't come along until the 1970s. I can just imagine how fresh and magnificent it all must've looked in the '50s... Still, I thought it was pretty great my first time. I know that somewhere there are old snap shots of me on many of the Christmas-themed rides, and I'm pretty sure that there's at least one shot of me screaming through tears while seated on Santa's lap. I WAS loving absolutely everything, EXCEPT that jolly old elf!

I can remember, as a little boy, thinking the place seemed truly magical. It looked alive with color, and the surrounding mountain air felt charged with an exciting sense of "anything-is-possible". I mean, I was frolicking around the place where Santa LIVED, after all! With all of his elves and reindeer, no less! Not to mention it looked as if you were in a fairytale, what with the storybook architecture of shops and houses populating the village. Also, those gigantic patterned mushrooms... WOW! I don't know how such a park would be perceived by the seemingly jaded young children of today, but back then, it certainly made an impression on me. Quite a happy one, too!

"Well, missy, you've got two choices. You can either hang
out with Blitzen, by that North Pole... Or you can reach
into these velvet pants and visit my SOUTH Pole!"

A couple of elves on their way back from the parking lot,
having just "caned" someone for not buying a souvenir.

This was the Whirling Christmas Tree ride. You hopped
into a giant ornament, and away you went!

Here are just a few random facts about Santa's Village in Skyforest, California:

  • The park was created on 15 acres of wooded land.

  • It cost $1 million to build.

  • In 1955, Children 11 yrs. & under got in FREE, Juniors 11 to 18 yrs. paid 40 cents, and Adults paid $1.00 (Federal Tax included)

  • At first, the park was open 364 days a year, and CLOSED on Christmas Day.

  • Glenn Holland, the park's creator, insisted that in order to help sustain the theme and illusion of a Christmas fantasy land, money was never to be exchanged inside the park at any of the shops or eateries. Instead, a small passport ticket was used to keep track of the guest's expenses, then checked out and paid for at the end of the visit in the exit shop. He felt strongly that children's belief in the myth was paramount.

  • When the park closed in 1998, all movable goods were sold at public auction. Today, the pastel-colored toadstools, Santa's sleigh, giant candy canes and a clock with months instead of numbers decorate homes and stores all around the mountainous area.

Elves communing with precious 'Bim the Burro'. He only
LOOKED harmless...

The Good Witch's Bakery. This was where nice little
children got cookies & donuts, but the ill-behaved ones
got stuffed into an oven! Guess she wasn't always so
"good", after all.

I don't remember seeing any scary clowns. They
probably caused that cute boy to eventually
become a serial killer!

Doesn't this just look like the ideal toy & doll shop?!
Well, this was where you bought 'em...

...but this was where Santa's helpers made 'em! It's
the Mill Wheel Toy Workshop.

"Tickets! Get your tickets here!" Eager children line
up for a ride on Santa's Magic Train.

I don't remember seeing this Jack
Pumpkinhead, either. But I do know
that if I had, I would've RUN the
other way!

I'm afraid that my follow-up to this post won't be as fun. In fact, it will be a bit sad as I'll be sharing a few examples of this park's slow deterioration into obscurity. But until that smack of reality, I hope you continue to enjoy this nostalgic look back at a true pop culture classic!

{All images via alamedainfo.com}


  1. Oh my - that place was glorious! I would've loved to have gone there. I'm glad you're leaving its deterioration for a different post - I'm enjoying thinking this place still exists. :)

  2. I looove this post! Your captions are great, as always. Lisa will have to shield her children's eyes from Santa's "South pole." You're absolutely right about the "anything-is-possible" atmosphere. That's so fascinating that originally they wouldn't allow money to be exchanged inside the park! I can't wait to see the deterioration. I think you're right about little Bim only LOOKING harmless. It sort of seems like he's got an, "Oh no you di'n't" look on his face. He's gonna bite off that elf-bitch's hand.

  3. P.S.- those are the wrong-est clowns! I don't remember seeing them, and I'm glad.

  4. Damn that is a sad story if ever I heard one.

    In order to pick myself up from this heartache I'm going to go grab Santaland Diaries by David Sedaris off my bookshelf.

    That's always good for a hearty laugh or to and it's keeping within the theme.

  5. I know, MoonDoggie, I'm glad that I have my own personal memories of it. At least, in that way, it still exists for me! It's just such a shame children will no longer be able to experience a place that was, once upon a time, quite fantastic and full of wonder...

  6. Tommy, I'm glad you liked the post so much! But then, I sorta thought you would.

    I'm also glad that you and I had gone there together, right before it closed down for good! I am determined to dig up the photos from that excursion. I know that we took some because I can remember posing for some silly shots on and around the giant mushrooms! Also, didn't we get a shot or two of Courtney (Love) elf? She was interesting...

    Remember the slow, old Lollipop Lady?

  7. It really IS a sad story, Townhouselady. But it's gonna get even sadder when I share the pics I found of the park in its current state.

    You know, I've never read anything by Sedaris, but 'Santaland Diaries' sounds like a good one to start with. I certainly like his sister Amy. She's kooky, and a total hoot!

  8. I never got to go there- but I know FOR SURE I would have loved it! Thank you for sharing this - I loved seeing all of the pictures!

  9. My pleasure, Heidi!

    It's a shame you never got to experience it in person. I'm VERY thankful that I did... TWICE! Of course, the time that I visited the 'Village' as a child was much more magical than as an adult, but it was still interesting to see the place through grown-up eyes.

    Tommy and I bought an ornament for our Christmas tree in one of the shops there. It's an elf sitting on a giant mushroom, similar to the ones seen around the village. And it is so nice to recall all of our memories every year we hang it on our tree!

  10. Ha ha - the Courtney Love Elf certainly sounds like she would be interesting and I can only imagine the slow old lollipop lady :D

  11. Yeah, MoonDoggie, if I ever find those photos, you can bet that I'll share them with everyone!

    I sure wish I was better about organizing and storing my photos...

  12. Wow! I feel like I've just been whisked away by Santa's elves to the North Pole! This is such a super fun post! As long as I worked at the park, Santa's Village was our son's playground. They thought their mom had such a cool job because I knew Santa, his elves, the reindeer all personally. And plus they got to go the park for free! Also, kindergartners, from mountain schools took a field trip to SV every year. And mountains residents got in for free with pic ID. Also,most of its employees were high school students. Grown-ups sometimes complained about the peeling paint, but the kids saw the true magic of the little storybook village nestled within the pines. Mrs. Claus also made the BEST fudge!!!! Thanks for such a GREAT post!!!


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