HENDERSON, Ky. (WEHT) – On the north side of Evansville, there is a giant Santa Claus statue.
Back in 2016, there was a social media campaign called “Stand Santa Back Up.” As we previously reported, Ron McKeethen found the statue in bad shape, and he worked with Bob Zasadny to restore Santa to his original state. Not only did the statue get new eyes at the time, but inside the statue is a time capsule for people to discover if Santa is displaced again.
McKeethen explains that the statue has a fiberglass exterior and a foam interior. The statue is hollow and was not professionally made, as the exterior is rough and the statue is made out of “cheaper material.” The statue is between 40 and 45 feet tall and weighs 3,500 pounds. There is also a time capsule inside the statue that will be opened at an undetermined date once the statue comes down or a catastrophic event occurs that results in the statue’s destruction.
According to McKeethen, the statue was meant to be a gimmick and was not meant to last as long as it has. He notes that when he painted the statue, he used two coats of primer and three to four layers of paint. The paint has lasted for seven years, but the statue currently needs a fresh paint job.
McKeethen says Doyle Kifer and two other people created the giant Santa for an event called Christmas Around The World. Santa was at the courthouse for three Christmases. After the third Christmas, the statue was iced in, and there were difficulties pulling it out. It was stuck until February, and after the statue was finally out, people at the courthouse didn’t want the statue anymore.
McKeethen says after this, the giant Santa was bought by George Busler, who stood the statue up at Busler’s Truck Stop at the bottom of the hill near Mesker Park Zoo for some time. After some time passed, the statue was sent to a place near I-64 and 41, where it deteroriated in a junkyard until McKeethen discovered it. From there, a social media campaign to restore the statue started, and the statue was back on its feet in September 2016 after one and a half years of work. McKeethen notes that this project was all volunteer work, and he put in hundreds of volunteer hours for the statue.
McKeethen says the statue has made quite an impact on the community. When the campaign was ongoing, members of the community raised funds by selling barbecue and signs, and someone wrote a children’s book as a tribute to the statue. According to the group Stand Santa Back Up, the book is called “Santa’s Gift” and is written by Angie Karcher with art by Dana Karcher. According to McKeethen, the day the statue stood back up was the day over 300,000 people tuned in to the Facebook livestream, with some watching from New Zealand and Nova Scotia, Canada.
McKeethen says he doesn’t want to see the giant Santa fall into disrepair again and that he’d like to see a corporation, committee or another person like him take over statue maintenance. He noted that a new Santa statue could cost about $150,000, or someone could maintain the current statue over a period of six to ten years for minor repairs. He thinks a corporate sponsorship could be the way to do this, or perhaps several entities could take turns making these repairs.
The giant Santa Claus statue can be found next to Peckenpaugh Plumbing Inc. at 11812 US Hwy 41 in Evansville.
This is the eighth of a weekly twenty-one-part series that will help educate about some roadside attractions in the Eyewitness News viewing area. Check in every Sunday at 8 a.m. for the next one! Last week’s installment can be found here.