Santa’s Village May Re-Open

  • sflinx_ed_staff
  • May 17, 2014 17:11
  • Themepark

Santa Village at Skyforest may re-open

From Theme Park Adventure

Posted on May 15, 2014

sv32

In 1955, a theme park opened in Southern California where families could go and spend a fun-filled day together riding unique attractions, eating delicious baked goods and food, and loading up on whimsical souvenirs including a photo with the big guy himself! We’re not talking Disneyland however – we’re talking about Santa’s Village, in Skyforest, California!

 

[note]

Passes to Santa’s Village was one of those “local” things that would be
prizes for the kid’s local television shows, along with Marineland of
the Pacific, Pacific Ocean Park, Knotts Berry Farm, Skyline Park Zoo (on
Mt. Wilson), Movieland Wax Museum, Ripley’s Believe it or Not, the
California Alligator Farm, Japanese Village and Deer Park, Jungleland,
and Busch Gardens. I don’t think Disneyland was on that list.

All those places ran commercials, but most kids heard about them from
shows like Hobo Kelly, Skipper Frank, Webster Webfoot, Winchell-Mahoney
Time, Sheriff John, or Engineer Bill. Places like Jungleland USA, Busch
Gardens, and Skyline Park were essentially in foreign and exotic
countries for my family. They were too far away
I did eventually make it to Busch
Gardens a few times. But that was in high school.

The brewery is still there but they discontinued the local themepark
(with free beer tasting). Jungleland is gone. I think it’s a mall or
convention center or something.

Pacific Ocean Park went of of business. The abandoned pier eventually
burned down in the 70s. Japanese Village and Deer Park closed down and
tried to silently euthanize all the deer. The area is a business park.

The Alligator Farm was across the street from Knotts. The land holds a
strip mall now, I think. Ripley’s is gone. Movieland is gone. The
observatory is still on Mt. Wilson, but the little park and zoo are gone.

Sea World bought Marineland of the Pacific and during the process of
purchasing the park they practically promised on a stack of bibles they
wouldn’t close Marineland. And they ceased operations it and moved the
star animals south to San Diego within weeks of closing the deal. That
land is a high end resort called Terranea now.

I believe I made it to Santa’s Village near Lake Arrowhead a couple of
times. Both times as grade school field trips. It was fun… I suppose.
I loved the rock candy, and the rides were tame enough that they didn’t
scare the pee out of me. (I didn’t like was deathly afraid of coasters until AFTER I took flying lessons.)

But I also remember it being a little lame. You know, after the buildup of
imagining crashing to your certain death, the ride ends quickly and you
climb out thinking, “that was it? Seriously? I might as well do it
again.” That isn’t close to the feeling I have after riding “The
Incredible Hulk” at Island sof Adventure. Or what was called Dueling
Dragons.)

In winter, with the ground covered in snow, the amusement park set the
mood. But it wasn’t… well… it’s visiting an amusement park with the
ground covered in snow. If you knew any better, you’d realize that it
sucks.

In spite of all the warning from teachers and parents, most of us city
kids were probably walking around in sneakers and light windbreakers.
Since I was THAT guy, even as a kid, I was probably walking around in
what we called “tank treads” which I suppose are just tan, leather,
lug-soled work boots and a heavier jacket that was still inadequate for
the weather and altitude.

And by the time they told us to get back on the bus, and the usual
delinquents had been busted for shoplifting candy (as well as assault
and extortion), I was frozen and ready to go. There would be no feeling
in my feet, and all the hot cocoa I had consumed would not have brought
my core temperature above freezing.

The ex-girlfriend lived down the hill from it–sorta. We would pass it
on the way to brunch at Lake Arrowhead (Belgian Waffle Works). If I
remembered to look, I’d get a quick glimpse of the lot and would see the
bee monorail hidden behind the trees. I remember a logging business in
there. There’s not a lot of things sadder and weirder than an abandoned
amusement park
.

The second time we visited there was during the summer. You didn’t have
to wade through snow to get anywhere, but a lot of the magic was gone.
It was kind of like peaking behind the curtain at the puppeteers.

They were a theme park franchise. (A little bit like how Bozo the Clown
and Romper Room were franchised children’s shows.)

It’s a nice idea. But amusement parks are a tough business. I think
it’s gets a lot worse if it’s only a seasonal park.

Maintenance costs tend to increase, which eats into profits. Themeparks
revenues come from food and retail. I remember Santa’s Village being
heavy on candy, baked goods, and a souvenir gift shop that had a lot of
wooden gifts, ashtrays, candles, and glass.

Another problem is that there’s unexpected costs of complying with new
regulations and codes. At least in California. Disneyland had a bunch
of high profile accidents and deaths. They’ve been revamping their rides
and queues to meet new state safety regulations. So it’s a good bet that
the insurance costs increased too.

Revenue is a tough one. Disney is unrepentantly mercenary. If you tried
to pull half the stuff Disney does at a place called Santa’s Village you
would have a major PR problem. But Disney is a class to itself anyway.
There are theme parks and then there’s Disney theme parks.

And the big competitors just eats the small parks alive. During the 60s
through the mid 90s the venues in the competitive markets tended to add
new attractions, shows, and events every year, or every couple of years
to draw in crowds. Things like a new thrill ride, or show, or parade.
Otherwise customers tend to say, “I’ve been there already.” And I
definitely felt that way about Santa’s Village. I doubt they added any
new rides. It’s one of those parks kids grow out of. That happened at
Disneyland too. But you grew back into it. You would hit an age where
Disneyland wasn’t cool. Then you would go to Magic Mountain. And then
you’d hit an age where you didn’t care if Disneyland was cool or
not–mainly because the darks rides (which Magic Mountain doesn’t have)
were nice make-out rides.

Place’s like Santa’s Village with, at most, 12 attractions just couldn’t
keep competing. But it had a pretty good run. It lasted from 1955 to
1998. Place’s like Frontier Village up near San Jose didn’t last that
long. Gilroy Gardens (Formerly Bonfante Gardens) appears to be
struggling, but there are fewer venues in the south San Francisco Bay
area. I guess there’s a Santa Cruz Boardwalk, Great America, and Gilroy
Gardens.