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NEWS: Santas Village in Dundee IL. to close!

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Looks like its final as santa is getting the boot.




EAST DUNDEE — Philip Wenz walked around Santa's Village on Tuesday, taking stock of the 22 rides — including the Galleon and Typhoon roller coaster — and sharing tidbits of the 46-year-old landmark's history.


Santa's Village drew a large crowd exactly a year ago, its last day of the 2005 summer season. Families took lots of photographs of the park, bought tons of souvenirs and reminisced with Santa Claus.


The day, Wenz said, was prophetic.


"It never got its swan song," he said. "Basically, the eviction will be next Monday."


A Kane County judge evicted North Pole Corp. this week, ruling in favor of land owner Sterling Bay, a Chicago development company. North Pole Corp. owner Hugh Wilson agreed to sell off the assets to pay Santa's Village's debts, estimated at more than $170,000.


An October auction is scheduled by a company specializing in amusement park, circus and museum auctions, Wenz said. The Galleon, a Ferris wheel, merry-go-round, two roller coasters and the trademark Snowball ride will all be auctioned off, he said. The original buildings, built in 1959 of California white cedar, will remain. The auction will be open to the public.


Sterling Bay has a pending lawsuit against businessman Steve Hopp, of the North Pole Village LLC, seeking more than $300,000. The proceeding was continued until September.


Hopp and an associate, Douglas Francis, reached an agreement last fall to purchase the amusement park. North Pole Village took over the daily operations this spring and announced grandiose plans to refurbish the park.


Hopp and Francis were the driving force behind rehabbing Santa's Village. However, numerous closing dates were planned and subsequently canceled. North Pole Village's deal fell apart completely in June and the company was evicted from the property.


Just like Hopp, Francis faces a legal problem. He is charged with unlawful possession of cannabis with intent to deliver, a Class X felony, in Kane County. Francis is accused of possessing 5,000 grams of cannabis. He is expected to plead guilty to a lesser charge next month.


"There were a lot of high expectations. All those expectations are gone," Wenz said. "The window of opportunity closed and there was nothing left. My gut feeling is the financing was never in place."


Hopp could not be located for comment Tuesday afternoon.




Sale hurried closure



Wenz, who portrayed Santa Claus for 20 years, said his Web site has averaged 200 hits a day from people asking what happened. People also have been showing up to take photographs of the park.

Santa's Village might have remained opened through the end of its March 2008 lease with Sterling Bay, which purchased the land from a Max McGraw Foundation trust, if North Pole Village had not entered the picture, said Wenz, who served as Santa's Village's spokesman Tuesday.


He said had there been no offer to buy the business, he would not have retired and would have continued operating Santa's Village until its lease expired.


It now is up to Sterling Bay to decide what to do with the property, Village President Jerald Bartels said, adding the village has been in communication with the owner. The company expressed interest in keeping the park open, but he has not heard of any real plans to do so.


The grounds remained in a half-state of readiness Tuesday. Employees began renovation projects in the spring, but work halted when Hopp laid off employees in May, he said. No one has maintained the property since then, and there are some signs of gradual disrepair, like fading paint on rides that normally would have been repainted by now. A willow tree's branches cascaded on the ground, under the cables of the Skyline ride whose carts remained in storage.


Wenz was named park administrator and will remain onboard to handle the final closing. East Dundee police are providing extra security to prevent break-ins and vandalism, he said.


Bartels expressed a sentiment that is sure to be repeated in upcoming months: "It is actually hard to imagine it not being there."



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This is just so sad to me. I tis park was given a bad reputation from the 2005 midwest trip tr, but I really liked the park. Even though I never visited the park often, I thought it was a nice small park. It is made even worse since it will be used for real estate.

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I'm really surprised the park lasted as long as it did. Typhoon was hardly a kid friendly coaster and while some parts of the park were nice, a good portion of it was left to fend for itself. And the employees were really not friendly. Seemed a bit expensive too for what they offered.

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Scratch one credit-wrore trip off of the '07 midwest trip...


-James Dillaman

Heh - we wouldn't have subjected our friends to that place anyway!


While it wasn't as bad as a William's Grove or Little A-Merrick-A, the place was a total dump. Run down to the point that the sign out front wasn't even in one piece. And I don't think we gave it a "bad rap" on the mid-west tour last year, we gave a very honest report. The place looked like it was totally run into the ground.


Sad too because I could actually see where it probably was "cute" at one point.


--Robb "The North Pole or Satan's Giant Tampon?" Alvey

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  • 2 months later...

The park's rides were auctioned off today. Chicago's local ABC affiliate reported that the Typhoon sold for $250K and the Chicago Tribune reported earlier that the Dragon Coaster sold for $46K.


Santa taking bids on his old village

Closed theme park tries to pay off debt


By Robert Channick

Special to the Tribune

Published October 25, 2006


The gates to Santa's Village will swing open one last time Wednesday for an auction that will let fans of the closed East Dundee amusement park bid on everything from cotton candy machines to the Typhoon Roller Coaster.


"We're very hopeful that it will get us at least to ground zero" in paying off some debts, said Phillip Wenz, acting administrator for the park.


After a bumpy financial ride that forced the park to close this summer, the operator was evicted in August. A Kane County judge ordered the company, North Pole Corp., to pay $171,000 in overdue rent, prompting the liquidation.


On Tuesday, dozens of bidders arrived to register for the auction and tour the park. Among them was Randy Saluk, owner of Tinkertown Family Fun Park in Winnipeg, Manitoba.


Saluk had his eye on the Typhoon, provided he could nab it for under $250,000.


"We drove 1,500 miles and thought [the place] would be in better shape," he said. "A lot of the stuff is run-down. It needs a lot of work."


Amusement park and carnival operators were expected to bid on dozens of attractions, but for a $10 admission anyone could acquire some very large pieces of local history.


Items to be auctioned include a locomotive engine, a 56-horse carousel, two Zamboni ice machines and 10 not-so-gently used bumper cars.


The biggest ticket item, the 63-foot Typhoon, was purchased for more than $1 million in 1998, according to Wenz.


"It's going to be an experience that none of us really wanted to happen," said Wenz, who spent two decades as the park's Santa before its demise thrust him into a caretaker's role.


One of three Santa's Villages built by California developer Glenn Holland, the East Dundee park was the last one standing.


A Chicago developer, Sterling Bay Cos., owns the 40-acre property at Illinois Highways 25 and 72. The company has discussed potential redevelopment plans with East Dundee officials.


The auction, which begins at 10:30 a.m., will be run by Norton Auctioneers of Michigan, which specializes in amusement parks. "We've done them all over the country," said David Norton, president and chief auctioneer of the 40-year-old company.


Norton has presided over the last ride for several local amusement parks, including Dispensa's Kiddie Kingdom in Oakbrook Terrace, which closed in 1984, and Chicago's famed Riverview Park, which ended its 63-year run in 1967.


Norton employees have been organizing the items that will be put up for bid, including logo-bearing coffee mugs and the 12-foot Santa that guards the front entrance.


High bidders will have two days to remove the smaller items and up to two weeks for the larger ones. Responsibility for transporting the rides falls entirely on the new owners, which could prove challenging.


It will take a crane and about a dozen 40-foot trailers to relocate the Typhoon, something Wenz warns the impulse buyer to keep in mind.


"There's part of me that is in denial with it," said Wenz, who plans to stay on until the assets are dispersed.


"It will be a difficult day to get through Wednesday because I'll see another Chicago icon being dismantled."

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Back in the late 70's and early 80's, it was the place to go. They had ads on TV all the time. My Mom would take us there at least once a year. I remember, and I'm stretching my memory, the place being really well kept and the rides in good shape. I was distraught after I read the 2005 TPR trip report. The place looked horrendous.

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