"You can visit Santa in the SUMMERTIME!"

A few weeks ago, I saw my first lit Christmas tree in an Oakland window. Either they were having a late "Christmas in July" party, or there are people in this city who love Christmas more than I do. However, the existence of that September tree reminded me of a major childhood memory. Of a place I never visited.

My parents have always given me everything I wanted, within reason (well, and then some). They are wonderful, generous people. If I had asked them to take us to the Santa's Village theme park in the San Bernardino Mountains between 1983-1998, I know they would have complied. But inexplicably, I don't think I ever wanted to go there while it was still around!
The above advertisement for Santa's Village played during every single cartoon-watching commercial break of my youth. I cannot emphasize enough that I have seen this ad thousands and thousands of times. I'm a little embarrassed to admit that rewatching it this morning felt extremely comforting, like going home.

But with the option of Disneyland less than an hour away from my Ganny's house, I guess I never felt like settling for what seemed to be a low-rent substitute, as much as I loved Christmas and Santa. Also, the San Bernardino mountains seemed really far away at the time. But boy, I wish we had made just one trip. The kitsch factor is through the roof!

According to their great memorial website (which honors "the memories, the parks, and the Santas"), California's Santa's Village actually opened a month before Disneyland in 1959.

In the 90's, California decided they'd had enough of Santa. Santa's Village closed, and one of my favorite landmarks, the giant Santa peeping up along the coastline near Carpinteria which signified that my family was halfway to our LA destinatation, was deemed too tacky and relegated to a sad lot in Oxnard.

Did anyone ever visit Santa's Village? Was it a pleasure to "see Santa in the summertime," or confusing-inducing?

Thanks to a fellow child of the 80's glued to KTLA for many an afternoon, Jason of Southern California News Wire, for his tireless reporting on California's bygone Santas.


Petals said...

Oh man, you just brought back so many memories with this post. I grew up in Ventura and remember seeing this commercial a million times.

I still get sad with I drive through Oxnard and see santa sadly sitting in that dirt lot.

Have you been to Fairy Land in Oakland? I imagine that it is a lot like Santa's Village was. Minus the Christmas theme of course.

goody-goody said...

I'm so excited you blogged this! My husband grew up in Scotts Valley (Santa Cruz Mtns.) and remembers the one just down the road from his house. His parents never took him (anti-establishment hippies that they were) but when it closed, the park donated giant mushrooms and other statues to his school for the kids to climb on. So, in a way, he got to experience it after all.

Momma Libby said...

Thanks Polly! I didn't realize how many times I had watched that commercial until seeing it again just now. We really did see that a lot, didn't we?

My grandparents had a cabin the San Bernadino Mountains, so we'd pass Santa in Oxnard and Santa's Village a couple times a year on the way up. Never did stop, though. Great landmarks from our youth.

anna said...

Santa's Village constitutes the entirety of my mental associations with San Bernadino, based on the thousands of viewings of said commercial. If only we had gone in h.s. after we had licenses! "There's food and treats from Pixie's Pantry, and the Good Witch's Bakery"...

pollyanna cowgirl said...

I think the thing about this commercial is that they never needed to change or update it; it was the exact same 30 seconds for years on end.

Goody-goody, that is amazing! I had no idea that there were multiple Villages until I "researched" this post. I'm glad that that stuff wasn't just destroyed.

And Petals, I went to Fairyland when I was about 4, but I don't remember it very well. I'm waiting until my nephew is a little older so we can take him (they won't let adults in without a kid!). I think they're trying to discourage creepy old men and stoned-out teenagers, which is a reasonable policy, I guess. :)

Ashley said...

Yes! Oh my god I am excited to see both Santa's Village and the Carpinteria Santa referenced in the same place on the internet!
I went to Santa's Village a couple of times as a child and loved it. Rock candy, pony rides, a very tiny roller coaster and gingerbread. And giant trees. It really was sort of amazing.

Oh I love this post.

pollyanna cowgirl said...

Ashley, YES! So far you are the only one to have experienced Santa's Village firsthand.

For me, the Carpinteria Santa and Santa's Village go hand in hand, as we visited my grandmother in LA monthly. I think we actually stopped at the Carpinteria Santa area once, where if I remember correctly, my mom ended up choking on a Reuben sandwich.

According to the sign, they had date shakes there, which I have experienced, and are delish. A potential vegan treat, as well! :)