The Tragedy of Santa’s Land

NOTE: This blog post is about Santa’s Land in Putney, Vermont. it is NOT about Santa’s Workshop, a theme park in the Adirondack Mountains, and no confusion should be made between the two locations.

Growing up in the Capital District, we had many different amusement parks and fun centers to visit.  Many of them are long gone – only our memories can return to the Catskill Game Farm or Frontier Town or the Mid-City Skating Rink.

Sometimes there are attempts to revive or restore these old parks.  On occasion, the parks become a treasure for a new generation to appreciate.

Sometimes – like yesterday – they become a larger nightmare.

May I introduce you in this blog post to Santa’s Land, a roadside amusement park in Putney, Vermont that opened in 1957 and survived – through various owners – for nearly fifty years. Here’s a YouTube clip that someone assembled of photos they took at the park in 2009.

And here’s a clip of Santa’s Land from I think 2011, when someone videotaped their ride on a park-enclosed railroad.

The park, however, suffered from such Grinchly effects as rising gas prices and the struggling economy. It almost closed down permanently in 2011.  At the last minute, however, a “secret Santa” came in and purchased the property, with plans and hopes of restoring Santa’s Land to its original glory.

According to yesterday’s Brattleboro (Vt.) Banner, however, things are much worse at Santa’s Land than anyone could imagine. The news report states that after a sheriff’s investigation , authorities found the carcasses of sixteen deer, as well as a dead pheasant and a dead pot-bellied pig, on the Santa’s Land property.

This report from tells more.×2&auto_start=0&pf_id=12168&rel=3&show_title=0&va_id=4967818&volume=8&windows=1

This is terrible.

The owners of Santa’s Land addressed the situation on the company’s Facebook page, in which they state the following:

“Dear Friends of Santa’s Land. This is from the owner of Santa’s Land. I am at the park now and please be rest assured, no animals have been rescued nor seized. All the animals remain at the park and are being well taken care of. The initiating information concerning animals being rescued is false. It is true officials came to our park yesterday upon concern of someone who remains anonymous. After a veterinarian toured our park and examined all our animals, her only comments to the caretaker and myself, were the donkeys and the ponies should have their hooves checked. She also stated a pony should have a dental exam. It is true there have been some deer which have passed away and this is unfortunate and saddens us. Upon the death of the first deer, we called in our vet. to assess the situation. All appropriate lab work was performed to rule out disease factor. The harshness of the winter has taken its toll but please be assured all animals are being fed, watered and sheltered appropriately. Neither the caretaker nor myself have been arrested, rather we are cited to explain our side of this situation. We thank you for your support in this and would hope you would not believe the post of our animals being seized or rescued. We will continue ti [sic] keep everyone informed of what transpires. Thank you.”

This is painful. I can only imagine what’s going through everybody’s mind when they see a story like this. It reminded me of a blog post I wrote three years ago, about an Alberta-based roadside attraction called the GuZoo and what had happened to their animals over time.

What happened at Santa’s Land? Were the animals malnourished? Were they underfed? Were they victims of the harsh weather conditions we’ve experienced this year? Were the new owners overwhelmed when it came to operating a roadside theme park? Did they buy the park with their hearts, only to discover it takes more than hearts and dreams to operate an animal-themed amusement park?

In a perfect world, I would hope that the operators of Santa’s Land can work together with the Windham County Sheriff’s Department and whatever veterinarians and support groups exist there, to hopefully save what’s left of the animals on site. Maybe it’s time to shut down Santa’s Land for good and save whatever animals are still there. Or maybe it’s time to sell the park to someone who KNOWS how to properly operate a roadside theme park.

One thing is for certain.

Action must be taken.

If for no other reason… than to save the animals on the park property, and to save the memories of what was once a very popular and beloved tourist attraction from it has become today.