Len Emery Photo
Santa Claus waves atop the sign at the entrance to Santa’s Land and Country Store in Putney on Route 5 on Tuesday.
PUTNEY — Someone has granted Santa’s Land its Christmas wish.
The 1950s Christmas-themed amusement park will reopen for the 2012 holiday season, thanks to an anonymous “generous benefactor” who stepped in and cancelled a liquidation auction earlier this month.
Santa’s Land closed last December after 54 years, when the current owners, Leslie and Tim Wells, said they could no longer afford to keep the quaint park and its brightly painted buildings with names like the Candy Cane Cupboard and the Ding Dong School House open any longer.
Generations of families from Vermont and New England had made a visit to Santa’s Land a regular tradition, but the couple said the 2011 economy and the skyrocketing price of gasoline spelled doom for the park.
The public responded with a rush of nostalgia, and gave the couple their best year in the eight years they had owned the retro Putney amusement park. But it still closed a few days before Christmas.
This year the park’s longtime Santa Claus, Arthur Bailey, 93, of Charlestown, N.H., said he has been enlisted by Leslie Wells to resume the holiday role he has held for 21 years.
Bailey said that Leslie Wells had told him they wanted him to return, as well as all the longtime staff. “I have a lot of fun,” said Bailey.
Tim Wells said he hoped the park, which the family views as a unique piece of Americana, could continue.
“Ownership of the park has not changed. It is with the hope of Santa’s Land being able to continue as a significant historical Vermont landmark that the park is being reopened for the remainder of this season,” said Tim Wells, a Putney lawyer, whose office is in one of the park’s igloos. “As a special favor and much to our delight Arthur Bailey has agreed to don his St. Nicholas attire and assume his favorite role as Santa this year.”
“We’d like to see the park go on and we’ll see what happens,” said Tim Wells, from the park’s gift shop.
According to a press release issued Tuesday by a Connecticut marketing firm, MidConn Marketing, “a generous benefactor has stepped in at the eleventh hour and is keeping the park open for its 55th year of continuous operation.”
“This really is a Christmas miracle for Santa’s Land,” Leslie Wells was quoted in the press release.
The release said that Santa’s Alpine Train will be back, to take children and their families for the trip through the countryside. “Fudge will be sold in the candy shop and Santa will be greeting children in his home,” the release said.
Leslie Wells said that Josh Dennis, who works for Midconn Marketing, has done the park’s website for a number of years.
The park will open the Friday after Thanksgiving, and will be open every Saturday and Sunday after that until Dec. 23, according to Dennis.
A recent liquidation auction slated for Oct. 14 was cancelled at the last minute with no explanation.
The town of Putney paid tribute to the unusual theme park by placing one of the park’s whimsical maps on the cover of the 2011 town report. On Wednesday, the park was empty but well kept, with the lawns mowed and the cluster of themed buildings in good shape.
At a nearby barn, a flock of small goats, ponies, a couple of horses and donkeys appeared ready to resume their old roles.
The news spread quickly on social media. On the Save Our Santa’s Land Facebook page joy reigned supreme. There are more than 330 members to the page and recent posts indicate the fans of the park would be there when the doors opened the day after Thanksgiving.
“Santa has apparently been very hush hush. If I hear anything from Mrs. C, I will let you know. Until then let’s all keep the spirit of Christmas in our hearts and pray for a holiday miracle. MERRY CHRISTMAS!” wrote Tina Favero.firstname.lastname@example.org