Thursday, July 28, 2011

Rainy Days and Hot Days

The one thing no one can control about working at a theme park is the weather. This July of 2011 has been the rainiest on record in the Chicagoland area with over 9 inches of rain. It also has been extremely hot when it has not been raining. Many days the heat indexes topped 100 degrees.

Santa’s Village, like any other outdoor attraction, is at the mercy of Mother Nature. The park has had to close on some of these days because of the rain and other days the park closed early because of the dangers of the heat wave that has been sticking around a lot this year. For the park officials the decision to close is a tough one, but they always put public safety, employee safety, and animal safety first.

Even if the park is closed because of the uncontrollable weather, the daily operations of maintenance, administration, and cleaning still have to take place. Plus the care for the animals that live at Santa’s Village need attention no matter what the weather may be. The park just does not get locked up and everyone goes home for a day off.

There are a lot of things that the general public might not understand about rainy days and hot days. And that is to be understood. But as an insider, I know that the park officials do make the right decisions when it comes to weather. It is a tough call sometimes and I am glad I don’t have to make that decision.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Man’s Best Friend

A little over two years ago, DeAnn and I had a very special “little friend” enter into our lives and home…His name is Sparky.

As a young boy growing up, my family had many pets that became our family members. My two brothers were into the pets more than I was, but I did enjoy having the dogs, cats, gold fish, and hamsters around. I never really had my own pet as a kid or even as an adult but that changed in early 2009.

A couple years ago I was talking to a friend of mine who had to find a new home for his family’s pet dachshund. The dog was 7 years old at the time and a lot of times, at that age, a new home is hard to find. I was familiar with the dachshund bread as my family had one when I was a child. It was probably the only dog that I really had a true fondness for as a kid.

With that being said, when I thought about this 7 years old dog that needed a new home, I seriously thought about it. I was also afraid of what the alternative could be. After a couple days, I knew I wanted the dog…now all I had to do was to tell DeAnn.

DeAnn and I discussed the issue and we both agreed that having a pet in the house might be challenging at times, but for the dog we needed to do it. Plus she thought it would be good for me. Well, DeAnn was right.

I brought Sparky into our home in February 2009 and he has been with us ever since. Sparky is a great joy and he is a true friend and buddy. I cannot imagine life without this little red “wiener dog” around.

Today Sparky is 9 years old and turning a little gray around his snout and paws, but who isn’t. He travels with us as much as he can and the love and companionship he shows is as genuine as I have ever seen or felt. He is truly part of our family.

Thanks Sparky for bringing the kid in me out again.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Gone Fishing

Sometimes you just need a little time off to relax and go fishing. Too hot for ice fishing, but relaxing all the same.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The North Pole

It is a piece of theme park history. When Glenn Holland and Putnam Henck of Santa’s Village Corporation first developed the concept of Santa’s Village in 1953 they wanted to bring the Legend of Santa Claus to life in startling realism. Part of that realism was having an iconic symbol for the park. It was an obvious choice…the North Pole. The frozen North Pole appeared at all three Santa’s Villages that Holland built. It became a landmark. In reality there were only six North Poles built. Three were for Santa’s Village Corporation and three others for different entertainment venues. Today, to my knowledge, only three exist.

The frozen North Pole that was at the Dundee, Illinois Santa’s Village was first located in the center of the park in a small area coined “North Pole Plaza.” When the Polar Dome was built in 1962 the Pole was moved, along with Santa’s House, near the Snowball Ride. The Pole was move once again in 1968 to right outside the front door of Santa’s House.

Since the North Pole was first frozen in 1959 at Santa’s Village Dundee it has fascinated millions. The Pole was last frozen at the park on September 18, 2005. I tuned it off on the last day of operation of the park. The North Pole survived the auction of the Santa’s Village assets in the fall of 2006 because I had made an agreement to preserve the North Pole and all the Santa’s House props along with the extensive public relations archives of the park that date back to 1958. All these things have been in my possession ever since.

The North Pole has been used a few times since I removed it from the park. This past year I loaned the North Pole to another attraction. That agreement has since expired. And so the North Pole is once again with me at my home in storage. But the Pole will not stay in storage long. With the reopening of Santa's Village this past May and my return to the park as Santa, I have agreed to loan the North Pole to Santa’s Village. So after 5 years the North Pole is coming back to the park.

For all its history the North Pole has survived three locations, numerous sign toppers, the park’s closing and auction. It will be great to see the frozen North Pole once again at its original home at Santa’s Village. And for sure, the Pole will bring back memories for some and create new memories for those who have never seen it and once again fascinate the young and the old alike…that believe in the magic of Santa and childhood.

Christmas in July

Since the Fourth of July has passed, the “Christmas in July” season has started. What does this really mean? Well for starters it is extremely hot walking around Santa’s Village theme park in full regalia. Last weekend the temperatures were way past 90 degrees with heat indexes were over 100 degrees. It’s hot enough if you’re wearing shorts and a t-shirt, but a full yak beard set, wool pants, black boots, and foam rubber padding is extreme. But that is part and parcel with being Santa from Santa’s Village. It is also a heck of a way to drop a few pounds. Of course we take the necessary precautions while in the suit to keep hydrated and monitor body temperature.

July is also the time of year that we start shooting print ad pictures, commercial spots, and promotional videos for this upcoming Christmas Season. These can be lots of fun especially when you have a great crew that you are working with. Last week we shot at Sears Holdings national headquarters in metropolitan Chicago. Sears Holdings is the parent company of Sears retail stores and the Kmart retail stores. We did filming for both entities. I tip my hat to the crew of the project as they were very accommodating and really great professionals to work with and be around. It is a lot of work, but it is very rewarding to see the finished project where the talent of all concerned blends into one image. That in itself is pretty cool on a hot July day.

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