Christmas in Santa Claus, Ind.

The population of this rural community is less than 2,500, but its post office receives up to 15,000 letters addressed to Santa Claus every year.
BY TRACEY TEO Modified: December 14, 2012 at 1:18 am •  Published: December 16, 2012
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Any kid knows Santa only delivers goodies to good little girls and boys, and at the castle's North Pole Network, they can chat with an elf on a computer to find out if they have made the “good” list.

Santa's Candy Castle is really much more than a candy store. It was a popular tourist attraction in the 1930s, but its existence today is a bit of a Christmas miracle — one that can be attributed to Klosowski.

Decades before Americans had heard of a theme park, plans were under way for “Santa Claus Town,” a themed attraction where the joy of Christmas would live year round. Santa's Candy Castle was the first building constructed on the property and opened to great fanfare during the Christmas season of 1935, a time when many Americans were feeling the relentless sting of the Great Depression.

The castle's Toy Village provided children a fairytale-like setting to play with expensive toys their financially strapped families couldn't afford. Since nothing was for sale, there was no pressure for parents to purchase the toys.

World War II changed everything. Gasoline and tire rationing slowed tourism to a trickle, and toy sponsors pulled out as they put their resources into making war supplies instead of toys.

Santa's Candy Castle, which opened with such great promise, sat empty and forgotten. Attempts to reopen it floundered, and by the 1970s, it appeared to be shuttered for good.

Klosowski came onto the scene in 2006, determined to restore the castle and recapture that sense of wonder visitors felt in the 1930s.

“I was inspired by the original vision of giving visitors a magical Christmas experience regardless of whether they had money to spend,” says Klosowski. “I felt that the attraction still had so much to offer, and I became passionate about finding a way to make that happen.”

It took time, money, and determination, but the exterior of Santa's Castle looks exactly like it did when it opened nearly 80 years ago.

A number of free events and activities are offered at the castle year round, but Story Time with Santa is the big crowd pleaser in December.

Klosowski says he loves welcoming returning customers that stop by for sweet treats and family fun every holiday season.

“I can't imagine anything more rewarding than being part of a family tradition and helping to make cherished memories that will last long after their visit.”