By: Andrew Hind & Maria DaSilva
It was 60 years ago that Santa Claus—not as young as he once was—decided he needed to vacation in a warmer climate. He chose Bracebridge, a community located on the 45th Parallel exactly halfway between the Equator and the North Pole. And so Santa’s Village, Muskoka’s most famous and popular family destination, was born. Six decades of fun and fantasy have followed.
Here are six fun facts about Santa’s Village, one for every decade of the park’s existence.
1. Roger Crozier is best-known for his illustrious career as a goalie for the Detroit Red Wings and Buffalo Sabres. He won the Calder Trophy as best rookie in 1964 and won the Conn Smythe award for Most Valuable Player in the playoffs the following year. Before that, however, this Bracebridge native worked at Santa’s Village operating the Candy Cane Express train.
2. The Candy Cane Express is almost 70 years old. This replica of a 1950s CN diesel engine made its debut in 1956 at the Eaton’s Toyland located on the sixth floor of the department store at Yonge and Queen in Toronto. It was later purchased by Santa’s Village and has been a fixture ever since. The merry-go-round also came from Eaton’s Toyland.
3. Santa’s summer cottage and the hillside chapel are original, and have hardly changed in the sixty years since opening. The chapel, within which one is reminded of the true spirit of Christmas, was sanctified by a priest before opening. The bell in the steeple comes from an early Bracebridge schoolhouse that has long-since been demolished.
4. The deer shading themselves contentedly in their enclosure aren’t reindeer—Santa explains that Rudolph and his companions don’t do well in the warm Muskoka summers—but rather are Fallow Deer native to temperate Europe. The park’s original deer were tame white-tail deer.
5. Though he no longer accompanies Santa on his summer vacation, Snowbo, Santa’s reindeer-herding Samoyard dog, was one of the stars of the park for decades. Snowbo greeted guests to Santa’s cottage and was featured alongside his master on advertisements and merchandise. There were even a series of children’s books written about Snowbo.
6. The wishing well has been granting wishes since 1955, the very year the park opened. It’s a quaint reminder of an era when the park was inhabited by characters that had stepped out of nursery rhymes and storybook tales, among them Old Mother Hubbard, Humpty Dumpty, Cinderella and Prince Charming, Alice and the Mad Hatter from Wonderland, and even Little Miss Muffet.
Santa’s Village opens for the season on June 13th. New for 2015 is a children’s aerial adventure park on Elves Island, suitable for kids as young as three, and expanded features at Muskoka Tree-Trekking and Zip-Lines, such as an enhanced obstacle course, a new zip line course and, for the extreme adventure seeker, a jump tower that will have platforms at 40 feet and 70 feet where participants can “jump off” platforms with the use of a Quick Jump system.
July 25 will be the inaugural Summer Santa Fest, a not-to-be-missed street festival to be held in Bracebridge’s downtown core.
Register at santasvillage.ca or like Santa’s Village on Facebook to qualify for Santa’s Village promotions and specials throughout the summer.