Santa Claus, Indiana--Hometown of Jay Cutler and the Place to be this Time of Year

>> Saturday

It's less than two days until Christmas! So in the spirit of melding the holiday season with the general subject matter of our blog, I thought I would write a little piece that almost vaguely relates to each.

So if you'll join me, let's all take a trip to the most Christmas-y place in the world--Santa Clause, Indiana, the hometown of Denver Broncos quarterback Jay Culter.

An exotic locale

Santa Claus is located in the greater Evansville area in southern Indiana, just up highway 162 a piece from Interstate 64. It lies immediately east of Lincoln City, north of Lamar, and straight west of Bumblefuck. If you ever need to locate it with a GPS or launch a torpedo at it, here's the more precise info from Wikipedia:

Santa Claus is located at
38°7′8″N, 86°55′17″W (38.118870, -86.921422) GR1.

According to the
United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 14.4 km² (5.6 mi²). 13.4 km² (5.2 mi²) of it is land and 1.0 km² (0.4 mi²) of it (6.82%) is water.

Sweet. Moving on.

A Storied Legacy of Pride and Tradition

From the purely factual Santa Claus, IN Wikipedia page:

The community of Santa Fe was laid out in
1846. The story of how it received the name of Santa Claus has roots both in fact and legend. In January of 1856 the town applied for a post office to be installed. They submitted their application under the name of Santa Fe. The application was returned to them with the message, "Choose another name than Santa Fe." The process of settling upon the name of Santa Claus has been lost to legend.

Allow me.

[Santa Fe, IN village hall, December 21, 1855]

Mayor: Now looka' here! This meetin’ will come to awrder right now! [dodges slung pitchfork, laughter ensues] Now you a-list'n here, you! I ain't a-kid-- [dodges clump of mule feces, grows angry] Didn’ I says I ain't a-kiddin'? [randomly fires gun, silence ensues] Tha's better. Now I'm glad ye all could make it, with 'n the cold winds a-blowin' and all.
We's a gotta sitchy-ation on our hands.
Drunk yokel #1 [comes to feet, wide-eyed]: Is they a-gona cancel Christmas this yar?
Mayor: Naw, naw, nuthin’ like that.
Drunk yokel #1 [sits back down]: Good... cuz I's a-gona keell 'em up good.
Mayor: Naw, we gets a-Christmas, but the legisla-chun says we cain't call ourself Santy-Fe no mahr.
Drunk yokel #1 [rising to feet]: Well I’s a-gona keell ‘em dubbly now!
Mayor: Don'cha worry, we's a-gona keell 'em. But in the mean-tide, we ain’t gona cull us-selves Santy Fe no mahr.
Drunk yokel #2 [forlorn]: Well ain't that a kick in the craw.
Mayor: So we’s a-gona haf’ta vote on a new name. Does nobody got any ide’ers?
Drunk yokel #1 [angelically]: Well, seein' as i's comin' on Christmas and all... How's about Santy Clauwse!
Drunk yokel #3: Yea-ah! Santy Clauwse!
Mayor [bewildered]: But that’n won’ make a lick a’ sense the res’ a’ the yar!
Drunk yokel #2 [furious]: Santy Clauwse?! Now tha's the stee-oop-idest--
Drunk yokel #3: Yea-ah! Santy Clauwse!
Mayor: Ain’t ye got any mahr ide’ers besides Santy Clauwse?
Drunk yokel #3: Yea-ah! Santy Clauwse!
Mayor [disgusted]: All right. All in favor of Santy Clauwse, say "Ay."
Drunk yokel #1: Ay!
Drunk yokel #3: Ay!
Mayor [resigned]: Well tha’s a-two. Tha’s a majority.
Drunk yokels #1 and #3: Whoop-eee!
Drunk yokel #3: Yea-ah! Santy Clauwse!
Drunk yokel #1: Now le’s a-go git drunk and hunt down some n---

[End scene.]

After a bit more research, I found this account of the name change from Access Spencer County:

Local lore tells of a town meeting around a wood stove in a little log church on Christmas Eve in 1852. The residents were deliberating over what to name their community when a winter's gust blew the doors to the church open. Sleigh bells could be heard in the distance and the children started exclaiming it must be Santa Claus! The residents decided the town should indeed be named Santa Claus.

Without any further facts, I guarantee that my purely conjectural account is much more accurate.

Now fast forward several years in Santa Claus's history to that magical time known as the Great Depression. Courtesy of Wikipedia:

The town’s unique name went largely unnoticed until the late 1920’s, when Postmaster James Martin began promoting the Santa Claus postmark. The growing volume of holiday mail became so substantial that it caught the attention of Robert Ripley in 1929, who featured the town’s post office in his nationally-syndicated "Believe It or Not" cartoon.

The town's new national fame had caught the attention of Vincennes entrepreneur Milton Harris. Harris created
Santa's Candy Castle, the first tourist attraction in Santa Claus, Indiana, which is also purported to be the first themed attraction in the United States. Santa Claus Town attractions included a red-brick Candy Castle, sponsored by Curtiss Candy and dedicated December 22, 1935, and the Toy Village, a series of miniature fairytale buildings sponsored by prominent national toy manufacturers. Santa Claus Town led to the creation of the town’s first newspaper, "The Santa Claus Town News", and the Santa Claus Chamber of Commerce.

Wow. That's a lot of Santa Claus. But here's where the story gets really, really good:

Harris’ project caught the attention of a rival entrepreneur, Carl Barrett, the Chicago head of the Illinois Auto Club. Disliking what he called Harris’ materialism, Barrett planned his own tourist attraction "Santa Claus Park". On December 25, 1935, Barrett dedicated a 22 foot tall statue of Santa Claus that was erected on the highest hill in town. The statue was promoted as being solid granite, although it was subsequently revealed to be concrete when cracks formed years later.

Years of lawsuits between Harris and Barrett were costly distractions for the two entrepreneurs. The lawsuits centered around land ownership and went all the way to the Indiana Supreme Court. National news media covered the ongoing story of "Too Many Santas". Over the years both entrepreneur’s visions became vacant and neglected.


God, I hope that's all factual. And if it's not, I'd rather go on believing that it is. Just priceless.

A changing community

More from Access Spencer County:

In the late 1950s Bill Koch developed Christmas Lake Village, a rural residential community, in Santa Claus. The 2500-acre development is situated around three lakes: Christmas Lake, Lake Holly and Lake Noel. A property owner’s association was established in 1968 to manage the properties within the development. The private, gated community includes tennis courts, clubhouse, pool and championship golf course, Christmas Lake Golf Course. All the streets in Christmas Lake Village have Christmas names. Over 800 homes are located in the Village.

Oh, so that's where Mr. Private College Star Quarterback comes from. And all this time I'd guessed Jay Cutler grew up working grandad's farm and shooting at the interstate. (That's a horrible joke and I take it back.) Sounds like little Jay's idea of "working the land" was greenskeeping at Christmas Lake Golf Course. John Mellencamp would never write a song about that. What a bummer.

Well at least he still looks like a total Gomer.

A diverse culture of many colors

Just kidding. Everyone's white. Check it out:

As of the
censusGR2 of 2000, there were 2,041 people, 732 households, and 620 families residing in the town. The population density was 152.1/km² (393.8/mi²). There were 818 housing units at an average density of 61.0/km² (157.8/mi²). The racial makeup of the town was 99.22% White, 0.44% Asian, 0.20% from other races, and 0.15% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.69% of the population.

By my calculations (done in my head, in very little time, and most likely with pinpoint accuracy because I'm a genius), that makes exactly nine Asians, fourteen Hispanics/Latinos ("nah...not really black but darker than us...but not as dark as a black person...and with different hair" as they're refered to locally), four "others," and three multi-ethnics. With figures like that, I bet Jay Cutler had lots of awesome receivers in high school.

A legitimate tourist destination (and not at all a laughingstock)

Again from Access Spencer County:

On August 3, 1946, Evansville industrialist Louis J. Koch opened Santa Claus Land. This was the first theme park built in the world. (Disneyland opened nine years later.) The original Santa Claus Land included the Santa Claus Land Train, toy displays, a food and souvenir shop, plus a special place to visit Santa Claus. In 1984, additional holiday themes were created and the park was renamed Holiday World. In 1993, Splashin’ Safari water park was added. During the summer months nearly a million guests visit the family parks, which have been repeatedly voted the World’s Friendliest and Cleanest.

And what's more, Amusement Today ranked
Holiday World's rollercoaster "The Raven" the #5 Wooden Roller Coaster in the World! And why wouldn't you trust the structural integrity of a 60 year-old wooden roller coaster in a small Indiana town?

Plus, at Rudulph's Reindeer Ranch, the little ones can enjoy riding Prancer's Merry Go-Round and--when the ride is done--getting molested by the ride operator.

Holiday World--It's fun for the whole family!

The other eleven-ish months of the year: Suicide rates through the chimney

From my only source on this piece:

Most of the businesses in Santa Claus have Christmas-themed names such as: Santa’s Lodge, Lake Rudolph Campground and RV Resort, Christmas Lake Golf Course, Kringle Place and Holiday Foods. Many of the establishments display Christmas lights and decorations year-round. Nearly all the streets in Santa Claus are holiday themed as well; there’s Christmas Boulevard, Candy Cane Lane and Mistletoe Drive. There are eight larger-than-life Santa statues located at various locations throughout the community.

And after about 2:30am each night, visitors can often spot a sauced, disgruntled Holiday Land employee hurling verbal abuses and rocks at one of these statues while cursing their life in a tourist trap. It's the magic of Christmas, 365 days a year!

Also, I wonder which of those streets was home to Jay Cutler. (You know, because I have to relate this to sports again somehow.)

Santa Claus is very much real and lives among us (according to this one lady who volunteers to read mail from crazypeople)

There's no way I can do this story justice. You have to read it. Just priceless.

Alright, well I think I've milked this Google search enough. Hopefully you enjoyed this informative look into Santa Claus, Indiana, the world's most Christmas-y little town outside of Bethlehem itself... or perhaps Christmas, Florida.

And most importantly, to all of you in YCSNation, have a most excellent Christmas (even if you're Jewish like Danny or wiccan like Matt), and go Jay Cutler!


Matt 8:38 PM  

Wiccan? You know that's a lie. I was born a snakehandler and I'll die a snakehandler.

Also, Packers Guard Daryn Colledge is from North Pole, Alaska. Iain probably knows him.

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