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The women of Holiday World

Happy International Women’s Day!

Today, I’m thinking back to the matriarchs of each generation. 

My great-grandmother, Clarice Koch, moved to quiet Santa Claus, Indiana in 1945 to help Louis J. Koch oversee the construction of Santa Claus Land. I’m sure that wasn’t in her plans for retirement. We don’t have many pictures available of  Great-Grandma Clarice, so I’ve included her obituary from 

Clarice Koch 29 Jul 1961, Sat Evansville Courier and Press (Evansville, Indiana) Newspapers.comClarice Koch

Grandma & Grandpa Koch in The Legend car at IAAPA

My grandmother, Pat Koch–or Mrs. Koch to many of you– supported my grandfather Bill Koch as he grew the town of Santa Claus, and eventually helped cement our title as the Cleanest Park in the World as Director of Cleaning.

My mom, Lori Koch, took care of our family so my dad could spend his time growing the park.  To this day, she makes sure we hold true to our brand.

I love to look back and think about the massive risks the men in previous generations took on to make Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari and the greater town of Santa Claus what it is, but it’s easy to forget the women who weren’t President or CEO. The growth of our town and our park have come at great risk and sacrifice, and the risks and sacrifices weren’t just made by the men. 

As we tell the story of the generations of the park, here’s the way we like to break it down:

  • 1st Gen- The visionary generation
  • 2nd Gen- The generation that built the town
  • 3rd Gen- The generation that grew the parks
  • 4th Gen (that’s us!) – The storytelling generation 

As the fourth generation builds, we’re lucky that we have the capital to put into telling a story in our park. We only get to start where we did because other generations built something special and grew it.  

But I know it wasn’t easy. I know my mom had many days that she would have rather had my dad around, and I’m sure she wasn’t the only one. 

Will and Lori in Legend Train at IAPPA
Mom & Dad in The Legend car at IAAPA

So today, I thank the women of my family who weren’t quoted in the newspaper and didn’t always get to enjoy the limelight. Too often, they took on the risk and watched as the men took credit when it paid off. 

There are probably hundreds more stories in our industry about these women in family-owned parks and attractions who made success happen by bearing the family responsibilities and shouldering the same financial burdens. I thank these women today as well. 

And there are hundreds more women in our industry who, when I was just a girl, helped me realize that being a leader in this business would never be out of reach. At our park, I specifically think of my Aunt Natalie who ran Splashin’ Safari for years, and Paula Werne who was our Director of Communications for three decades and taught me everything I know. And I could list more… but I would go on all day. 

I aspire to match the strength, perseverance, and wisdom of these women. And to set a strong example for the next generations to come. 

Thank you.