We are known as the forerunner of present day theme parks in the United States.
When Santa's Workshop opened its doors in July 1, 1949, little did the developers know that they had introduced a new form of outdoor entertainment ultimately to become known as the "Theme Park".
The seeds of imagination that culminated in this fantasy village lie in an enchanting story a father told his young daughter about a baby bear whose adventures led him to discover Santa Claus and his North Pole Workshop. The little girl's plea to visit this magical place prompted the father, Julian Reiss, a Lake Placid businessman, to begin to dream about a summer home for Santa Claus located where children could live their fondest fantasy.
The dream was brought to well-known artist and designer Arto Monaco of Upper Jay, NY whose sketches and designs gave it substance. To complete the team, Harold Fortune , also of Lake Placid, contributed construction know-how, the site on Whiteface Mountain, and a natural talent for promotion.
The originality of a fantasy village populated by storybook and legendary characters centered around a "North Pole" frozen year round attracted immediate and widespread media coverage. Friendly deer and other animals walking freely about the park added to the novelty. Within weeks of the opening over 700 dailies in the U.S. and Canada carried photos and feature articles. Pathe Newsreel showed the workshop to 30 million theater viewers.
Visitors began to flock to the new North Pole. From an opening day crowd of 212, attendance grew steadily until the single day record of over 14,000 was recorded on September 2, 1951.
In the true spirit of Christmas the developers chose to share their good fortune. Santa's Operation Toylift began delivering toys and gifts to underprivileged children in northern New York and Vermont with pilot Julian Reiss and his personal aircraft. Within six years, with the help of a C-46 "the Silver Sleigh" provided by ESSO Standard Oil of New Jersey, Operation Toylift expanded to over 13 States, The District of Columbia and two Provinces of Canada making 34 stops at major airports delivering over ten tons of presents to orphaned children.
On 16 December 1953, The U.S. Postal Service, recognized the great interest in North Pole, NY awarded it "Rural Postal Station" status. The same year Santa and his reindeer team traveled to the nations capital to participate in the Pageant for Peace. Earlier the same year they were seen in New York City's Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Many other organizations recognized Santa's Workshop's dedication to the true Christmas Spirit and invited the park to participate in their holiday activities. The Holiday Festival at Palisades Park's Bear Mountain and Project 80 in Montreal, Quebec to name a few.
The Nativity Pageant, the story of the first Christmas, was first introduced in 1954. Presented on a flower decked hillside, it has become a daily remembrance of the true meaning of Christmas.
In 1973, Christmas Preview, a new concept in family entertainment was introduced. From modest beginnings, these package weekends now have over 600 participating families each season. The program has been renamed to Yuletide Family Weekends.