LAPORTE - Holly Nedza remembers the thrill of seeing the 18-foot-tall
Santa statue in LaPorte when she was growing up.
Now, she enjoys the reactions of her children, 10-year-old Nolan and
8-year-old Silas, to the 500-pound fiberglass man in the red suit.
“When they see it, they get excited about Christmas,” said Nedza, who is now 43.
The Santa statue, kept on its feet by cables, is a long holiday tradition.
It’s been on the lawn of the LaPorte courthouse practically every
holiday season since 1968 except one, said LaPorte County historian
Fern Eddy Schultz.
That was in 2006 when the statue was set up outside Wells Fargo Bank
at Lincolnway and Jackson Street to accommodate exterior renovations
on the courthouse.
Jerry Kabelin, chairman of Kabelin Ace Hardware, was among a group of
retailers who headed up to Frankenmuth, Mich., in search of some type
of holiday decor for the city.
“It was fun,” he recalled, adding that the group did not have a
specific decoration in mind.
“We just went up looking for something.”
What drew them to the giant Santa was its size and the hope that the
figure, which cost about $500, would hold up well over time, he said.
Little did they know it would continue as a local tradition so long.
“We had no idea it would last this many years,” Kabelin said.
The statue is stored inside an old NIPSCO building on Washington
Street after the new year and trucked a short distance over on a
flatbed trailer around Thanksgiving to the courthouse lawn by members
of the park department, said LaPorte Park Department Superintendent
Heise said park department members put the head, body and feet
together then hoist it up.
The statue is kept standing by eight cables anchored to the ground.
Heise remembers his children helping him put up the Santa statue more
than 30 years ago.
“It’s been a long run and continues to be a good thing,” Heise said.
Santa’s stay here hasn’t been all rosy.
In 1980, vandals cut four of the eight cables holding him up and Santa
fell against the concrete berm along the edge of the courthouse lawn.
Schultz said his head and right hand broke off but he was back out the
following year after repairs.
Santa also underwent a recent renovation as the city works to continue
“It wouldn’t be Christmas without it,” said Sally Thorp, a longtime
LaPorte resident. “He’s a big boy.”
Staff writer Melissa Jackson contributed.