Cover Photo: An early photo of Santa and reindeer at Gillham Park. Photo Kansas City MO Parks and Recreation Dept.
55 Years KC Parks of Santa’s Wonderland
By Leslie Alford-KC Parks Communication and Development Manager
For decades now, Santa Claus has been making an important stop at KC Parks Gillham Park.
This is the 55th Anniversary of Kansas City, Missouri Parks and Recreation Department Santa’s Wonderland. On Friday, December 6th Santa Claus rode in on a horse drawn sleigh with a jazz ensemble into Gillham Park.. Hundreds gathered and celebrated the holidays, children lining up to sit on Santa’s lap to tell him what they would like him to deliver to them on Christmas morning. This was the first time the Farnsworth family attended Santa’s Wonderland and they all loved it. Santa also made a stop at KC Parks Penguin Park in the northland on Saturday, December 7th.
Santa’s Wonderland started in 1964 from an idea presented by then Park Department Director, Frank Vaydik. Mr. Vaydik worked in Detroit, Michigan before coming to Kansas City. At the time, the Mayor’s Christmas Tree was placed in Gillham Park. Vaydik proposed an idea used by the Detroit parks of displays of holiday figures and structures on which children could play. Park Department employees liked the idea and talented workers created large figures like a huge Santa, a big snowman with a built-in slide, a large train, toy soldiers, a jack-in-the-box, bass drums upon which children could stomp and more. The first Santa’s Wonderland was an immediate hit. One of these workers, Vernon Jones, went on to design other figures upon which Penguin Park is based.
Santa’s Wonderland in south KC
The Santa’s Wonderland north of the river opened at Lakewood Greenway Park in the area now known as
Penguin Park in 1965 supervised by Vernon Jones and supported by Frank Vaydik.
Santa’s Wonderland will be at The Bay, Longview Tract, 7101 Longview Road on Saturday, December 14, 2019 from 2pm-4pm. There will be horse drawn sleigh rides, hot chocolate, live Jazz holiday music and of course, Santa Claus.