Roadside Santa is a 20-foot-tall sculpture of Santa Claus located in Nyeland Acres outside of Oxnard, CA. It can be seen waving to motorists along US Highway 101 (Ventura Highway) on the north side of the freeway between Rice Avenue and Del Norte Boulevard.
The statue of Santa Claus is kept behind an iron fence on a small bit of land next to a mobile home park. Two Nutcracker Suit type soldiers stand on either side of Santa to protect him from vandals. whimsical silhouettes of reindeer adorn the fence while an “S” and “C” curved out of black wrought iron customize Santa’s front gate. The plaque on the base of the Roadside Santa reads: “Originally designed and built by Kenneth Vaughn in Carpinteria, CA on December 1950. Moved to Nyeland Acres 2003.
The origins of the Roadside Santa begin with a man named Patrick McKeon who moved to the town of Carpinteria, California with his family and purchased a piece of land from a lima bean farmer in 1948. There, he opened a juice stand with five stools. To attract more customers, he named his business stand “Santa Claus” and renamed the area Santa Claus, California. He decided on the name because all the cities in the region began with the word “Santa” as in Santa Barbara, Santa Paula, Santa Ynez, and Santa Monica.
As more Santa related storefronts popped up, the street in front of the his business became known as Santa Claus Lane. At the peak of Santa Claus mania, Santa Claus Lane housed reindeer, Santa’s Toyland, Santa’s Date Shop and Santa’s Kitchen (with a miniature train ride) and a rooftop Snowman. The snowman was later trucked to the Merkel Motor Museum in New Cuyama.
The Roadside Santa statue and his fake chimney welcomed visitors to Santa Claus Lane for fifty-plus years until redevelopment concerns threatened to remove the iconic roadside attraction. Real estate developers had been turning the area along Santa Claus Lane in New England style fishing village.
In the early 2000s, the property’s new owner decided that a “Santa Claus Lane” on the beach had lost its novelty and soon the County supervisors voted in favor of removing the statue, which at the time was in disrepair. The Santa Statue was removed in March 2002 and the building was bulldozed.
Eventually, even the street name was changed. Only a small section of roadway under the freeway (about 400 feet long) which connects the renamed Padaro Lane and Via Real remains “Santa Claus Lane.” However, the nearby Santa Claus Beach at 3611 Padaro Lane still retain its name.
But fans of the Santa statue rescued poor Old St. Nick, moved it to an empty lot in Oxnard, California and gave it a face-lift. The land where the Santa Statue now sits was donated by Mike Barber, president of the Garden Acres Mutual Water Company.
To move the statue, Santa had to be carefully lifted off the roof of the candy store and then transported 30 miles by freeway from Carpinteria to Ventura County. At one point, the statue (made of chicken wire and plaster) had to be removed from its flat-bed truck because it was too high off the ground. Workers pulled the statue under and over pass and then placed it back on its truck so that it could reach its final destination at 2801 Ventura Blvd. in Oxnard.
Upon arrival, Santa was repainted and restored to its former glory (Santa’s arm and some of his gift bag had fallen off during the move). Santa’s new home is surrounded by a mixture of industrial properties, a used-car dealership, a mobile home park and a strip club. Initially, the property was filled with trash, but with the help of many, the site is now a cheery, holiday park with little resemblance to the empty, dirt-filled mound of its past. Ho! Ho! Ho!
Neighborhood kids and a local Boy Scout Troop planted redwood and evergreen trees and bushes, while other volunteers helped build a concrete platform and install a green wrought iron fence around Santa’s new home. At night, floodlights around the statue illuminate Santa as he continues to wave to motorists and pedestrians alike as they pass by the Jolly Old Elf who is happy to have found a new home.
During the summer months, Santa clear lenses of his over-sized spectacles are replaced by dark lenses to protect his eyes from the sun. Santa in sunglasses. Cool!
Today, the site is open by appointment only and for special occasions such as annual Santa to the Sea Half Marathon charity run and toy drive where the toys are piled at the base of the Santa Statue.
NOTE: The Norse God, Odin was an early forerunner of Santa Claus. He rode an eight-legged horse named Sleipnir and gave gifts to good children.
According to the folks at Guinness Book of Records, the largest gathering of Santas – 13000 costumed participants – happened in Derry City, Ireland in 2007.
Santa Barbara filmmaker, Jody Nelson film “Roadside Santa” uses the 20-ft over-sized figure of Santa as a vehicle for exploring issues of community identity in the culturally and economically disparate communities of Carpinteria and Nyeland Acres. Beginning with Santa’s roots as a roadside attraction in postwar Carpinteria to its present incarnation as a symbol of community identity for the Hispanic neighborhood of Nyeland Acres.
There is a similar Santa in a chimney statue on the roof of Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland in Frankenmuth, Michigan.
2801 Ventura Blvd.
Oxnard, CA 93036