#MediaMonday – Stuart Cassidy

Stuart CassidySince it’s Christmas week, today’s Media Monday is all about Santa Claus.
It’s not about uninhabited Santa Claus, Ariz., which is 14 miles northwest of Kingman.
Nor is it about Santa Claus, Ga., which has several Christmas and reindeer-themed street names: Candy Cane Road, December Drive, Rudolph Way, Dancer Street, Prancer Street, and Sleigh Street.
It is about Santa Claus, Ind., home to the world’s only post office with the Santa Claus name.
The Spencer County Journal Democrat is the nearest newspaper to “America’s Christmas Hometown.”  The publication has been around for more than 157 years!
Reporter Stuart Cassidy actually covers Santa Claus.
The legend of Santa has a Lincoln clause …
As a kid, I never dreamed that I would mature into a journalist … art was my passion. More or less falling into the occupation in my late 20s, writing has turned out to be rather interesting forte for a fellow who considers himself a jack-of-all-trades.  But as captivating – and sometimes frustrating – as the job can be, it is even more gripping when you consider the communities I cover.
Growing up in the shadows of a town named Santa Claus, Ind. – 20 miles east, in Tell City, Indiana; most famous for its furniture and pretzels – there are many traditions that come with the territory.
For one, each year kids knew they would likely go to Holiday World theme park – which early in my life was known as Santa Claus Land, and it’s still affectionately called that by my mom. In my teens, I spent a summer working at the park – a great endeavor for some extra spending cash, with free tickets included each month in pay envelopes.
The first theme park in the nation, Santa Claus Land started in the 1946 after an industrialist was disappointed to learn that there were no attractions for children to visit in a town with such a remarkable name.  At that time, the park was a mere morsel of what it would become, and today is a world-renowned park that is a must-stop locale for coaster enthusiasts. (As you read on, it will likely become obvious why the park chose “The Voyage” and “The Legend” for two of their more popular rides.)
Before you even ask, I will let you know, as it has always been, the park grounds is the seasonal home of Kris Kringle, who makes his way north at the end of each season in order to prepare for the gift-giving season.  But aside from the park, the town hosts an annual gathering of Santa’s helpers, which includes not only Santa portrayers, but Mrs. Clauses, as well. On those days, it’s not uncommon to see 400; 500; even 600 or more Santas. What a sight that is, especially when (in a state known for its hoops prowess) they suit up and divide into basketball teams. Flashbulb from the cameras of more than a few curious spectators have been known to go off when the assemblies take place; and film rolls for documentaries and feature films, as well.
There is also nearby Lincoln City. That’s right, just a few miles from the town named for the most famous elf in the world is a town named for America’s most beloved president.
Many people from outside of the area would be surprised to know that before the Kentucky Rail Splitter went on to serve in the Illinois Legislature, en route to the White House, the Lincoln family, and a young Abe made their roots farming in Indiana near Pigeon Creek. From age nine, through his teens and until he was 21, an adolescent Lincoln formed many of the principles that would lead him into greatness. A play that convenes each summer recounts the historic tale – and so you’re not confused, it has nothing to do with vampires.
The Lincoln Homestead, which is nestled in a wooded area about five miles from Holiday World, encompasses several acres that play home to the separate Lincoln National Boyhood Memorial and Lincoln State Park. Both were school field-trip mainstays for local children and they continue to be.
Needless to say, folks in these parts probably know more about Santa Claus and Abe Lincoln than most.
Sorry to sidetrack you from the topic at hand, but it’s hard to highlight the greatness of one venue without the other.
Today, Santa Claus, Ind., and its more than 2,000 residents compose the county’s largest community. Though not the county seat, the town is a major hub of industry and with the afore mentioned attractions, as well as an 18-hole public championship golf course, it’s a center of tourism. A gated community, Christmas Lake Village, lined with streets such as Melchoir Drive and Jolly Lane, herald to the locales festive nature. Each year, the village hosts its Festival of Lights, a winding 9-mile drive displaying residents’ Christmas lighting prowess.
The nearby Lake Rudolph Campground also hosts a myriad of festivities, including its annual Land of Lights, which covers the park grounds.
The Christmas events in the community are countless. Santa’s Candy Castle, located in the town, sponsors a number of them. Most recently, they played host to the International Fruitcake Eating Championship. How fast can you devour a pound of the Christmas confection? Come on to town and find out.
Established in 1854 – known then as Santa Fe – the town was forced to change its name because another town in the state that was using the same moniker. The local tale about how Santa Claus came to be the epithet of choice is very befitting. Legend has it, that on Christmas Eve, as local leaders pondered over what to call the town, a sudden gust of wind thrust the meeting-hall door open, leaving the kids cheering for Santa’s arrival. With the echoes of “Santa Claus, Santa Claus” filling the room, the decision was made, and Santa Claus would from then on be the community’s designation. All these years later the esteem continues to build, and annually, children’s Christmas letters from all over the world end up at the local post office.
An elected five-member council – whose president actually bears an uncanny resemblance to Ole St. Nick, especially when something grabs his attention and the twinkle of interest in his eyes gets you wondering if just maybe he is really Santa –leads the town. Much of the board’s focus is geared toward improving the festive looks of the town and making it more accessible for visitors. Over the last few years, they have created miles of walking paths and trails, with many more miles slated to be built in the near future.
Recently, the council had hoped to decorate crosswalks like candy canes, but the state highway department put its foot down and quashed the idea. Too bad. What an eye-catching piece of automotive flare that would have bestowed in a place already adorned with enough holiday swag to make visitors think they took a wrong turn off the nearby interstate and ended up at the North Pole .
With all of the Christmas joy continuing year round, it’s no wonder the town is a perennial nominee for many of the tourism industry’s top holiday and Christmas awards; topped with annual recognition by the Travel Channel’s “Holiday Best” list.
There is much to brag about in a town named Santa Claus. But when writing about it, I sometimes worry that people may become confused if the context is geared toward the man or the town.  But regardless if talking about the town, man, myth or legends that encompass the area, one thing is certain, people here are proud of their heritage and it shows.

Written by
at Dec 22, 2014

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