Christmas in July: Santa’s Village Azoosment Park

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the parenting column ·

Abandoned amusement parks are creepy-just search You Tube videos if you disagree. What was once a magical place of children's cheerful screams and laughter horrifically disappears into a ghost town of weed-infested, broken, rusty rides with chipped paint and deserted and neglected buildings. Many parks that fostered so many memories in the Chicagoland area have closed: Adventureland in Addison, Fun Town on the south side of Chicago, Kiddieland Amusement Park in Melrose Park and Santa's Village in East Dundee, among others. Santa's Village, however, heroically reopened.

Glenn Holland built Santa's Village in 1959, after building two other's in California. More than 20 million people visited before Santa's Village had to close its doors in 2006. Most of the rides and fixtures were then auctioned off and the park lay dormant until 2011, when after extensive renovations were made the park reopened under the new name, Santa's Village Azoosment Park. Jason Sierpien, the new owner, had his own cherished park memories from his childhood-he worked there as a teen and then again during the last year the park was open when he supplied the live animals to the park.

Today, visitors can see a few of the original rides and attractions-Star Jets, Santa's Tree House Slide, Kringle's Convoy and the fire truck alongside a few vintage ones purchased from the Kiddieland auction in an effort to gain more visitors-Kiddie Whip, Midge-o-Racers and Space Invasion. And, if you're looking for a small taste of what the abandoned park atmosphere must have been like, you can peek over the fence to see the shuttered water park, a late park addition that unfortunately hasn't reopened.

"We are thrilled to be back for the 2013 season," said Sierpien. "The park offers a full day of play for the entire family. With the new additions of the Wildcat Coaster and the Ding ‘em Dodge ‘em Bumper Cars, we will have something to keep every member of the family entertained. We still offer an affordable pay-one-price admission that includes the rides, shows and attractions. Guests will find the perfect setting for many return visits throughout the season."

Aside from the nearly 20 rides spread out over the beautifully landscaped park, the exotic animals and petting zoo, engaging entertainment, skill games and food options, the best part of the whole park is Santa's House and the North Pole (which is actually cold!).

Phillip Wenz, who even has his own website, operates as the park's Santa Claus and he has done so for over 25 years (he started at age 23). Wenz works as a professional Santa over 200 days per year, turning questioning kids into believers with his enchanting explanations and stories.

When the park closed, Wenz had a major role in organizing the auction of the assets. "My home is full of park memorabilia and pictures," Wenz said.

In addition, Wenz did historical research and penned the book, "Santa's Village," utilizing his personal collection of photographs. Wenz also wrote the forward to Christopher Dearman's book, "Santa's Village Gone Wild," a wickedly insiders account of what it was like to work at the park as a teenager.

No matter what your reason is for visiting the park one thing is for sure, it will be an experience like no other and one that, hopefully, your children will remember and talk about when they enter adulthood.