Friday, April 27, 2012

Don Goers - International Santa Claus Hall of Fame

Last Saturday, April 21, 2012, upwards of 700 Santas and Mrs. Clauses came to the 2nd annual Jim Yellig Santa Claus Workshop in Santa Claus, Indiana. The event also included the induction ceremony for the new members of the International Santa Claus Hall of Fame. The Class of 2011, which was announced to the public on December 22, 2011, was honored along with the charter members of the Class of 2010. I am very fortunate to be in this exclusive “club” as I was enshrined as the first living Santa with the charter class.

At this year’s enshrinement my best known predecessor and friend, the late Santa Don Goers, was inducted. Don passed away a year ago in May 2011. It was a sad day and one that I shall not forget because of the irony of Santa’s Village re-opening for the first time in 5 years. Don never got to see the park up and running again and that to this day bothers me. We did have a small celebration at the park for him with some of his family present in August of 2011.

Don’s family and friends were in attendance this past weekend for his induction. I too was there. Santa Don Goers induction into the International Santa Claus Hall of Fame is a fitting tribute to man who always smiled and saw the best in people. His Hall of Fame plaque reads…

Don Goers
“Santa with a Smile”
Dundee, Illinois

Don Goers didn’t play Santa, he was Santa. As one of the longest tenured Santas in theme park history, Goers began his career in 1959. He is among the original men who played the role at Santa’s Village Theme Park in Dundee, Illinois. In 1966, Goers took over the role fulltime becoming Santa from Santa’s Village and being in costume 200 days a year. It would be a position he would hold for 14 years. As Santa, he invoked a jolly demeanor that was more a reflection of his personality making him a natural for the character. His wide smile and hearty belly laugh became his trademark. Goers spent twenty years at Santa’s Village in the maintenance department and as Santa. He helped the park grow from just a few rides and attractions to a Chicagoland icon. Each year, tens of thousands of children visited him in Santa’s House. Goers left the park in 1979, returning only once to be Santa. In 1994 he returned for the 35th anniversary celebration of Santa’s Village.

Don joins 24 other men in the Hall and is deserving of being one of the first 25 to be inducted. His entrance is special for me also as I sat on his knee in 1966 and we will always be connected by Santa’s Village and the role of Santa from Santa’s Village. Now our plaques hang together in the International Santa Claus Hall of Fame in Santa Claus, Indiana. How cool is that! Somehow, someway, I know Santa Don Goers was present Saturday in Santa Claus, Indiana…you could tell he was, as everyone was smiling, just the way Don always did.
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