Santaland coming to Watertown

WATERTOWN, S.D.(KXLG)- An iconic Watertown holiday institution is being resurrected this year.

Santaland, which entertained kids and adults alike in the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s, will return in 2023, thanks to the efforts of the Watertown Area Chamber of Commerce, the Watertown Development Company, the Watertown Area Community Foundation, and Visit Watertown.

The immersive Christmas experience will be housed on the second floor of the Watertown Commerce Center at the corner of Kemp Avenue and Broadway in downtown Watertown beginning on Friday, Nov. 24, and run through Saturday, Dec. 23. Plans are for Santaland to be open Thursdays and Fridays from 4 to 8 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m to 4 p.m. The space could also be open at other times for special events.

Tim Sheehan, president and CEO of the Chamber, said fond memories of past Santalands sparked the renewal.

Plans could change before the actual opening, but for now Santaland will feature a large, festive room where the Christmas experience will begin with children writing letters to Santa (and all letter-writers will receive a reply for the jolly old elf himself), followed by visits to Santa’s office (complete with the obligatory naughty and nice lists), Santa’s toy shop, Mrs. Claus’ bakery and finally, a chance for kids and families to visit and take photos with Santa himself.

Organizers will begin today soliciting volunteers, funding, and decorations to make Santaland a success. A core group of volunteers has already been assembled.

Santaland goes back at least to the 1960s, Sheehan said, with the first version popping up at the former Tiny Tiger Variety Store on Second Street SE across from Gather in downtown Watertown, near the National Association of Tower Erectors headquarters. In other years, it was held in the old Midland National Life building, the current Codington County Heritage Museum building, and possibly other locations.

Sheehan said it was just community members who kicked off Santaland back then.

With just four weeks to build Santaland basically from scratch, Sheehan said it will take many helpers to make it happen.