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From the Archives: Saving Carpinteria's Santa Claus

From the Archives: Saving Carpinteria's Santa Claus
Jan. 29, 2003: Low clearance at the California 33 overpass on West Main Street in Ventura forces workers to take a 15-foot-tall Santa statue off a truck and push him to the other side on rollers. (Bob Carey / Los Angeles Times)

After 50 years sitting atop a Carpinteria candy store, Santa was headed to the trash heap.

But in January 2003, local residents rescued the 15-foot-tall statue. Santa was relocated, and got a face-lift to boot.

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On Nov. 28, 2003, 200 friends celebrated at Santa's new digs in Nyeland Acres, outside of Oxnard.

Los Angeles Times staff writer Sandra Murillo recalled the effort:

For a while last year, it looked as if Santa's days were numbered.

After Santa spent more than 50 years waving to motorists along U.S. Highway 101, its owners decided that the chicken-wire-and-plaster statue no longer meshed with the seaside-village feel they were seeking for the stores they owned on Santa Claus Lane's retail strip.

Local preservationists argued that the statue was an example of "vernacular art" and fought for its preservation, but after much debate, Santa Barbara County supervisors allowed its removal from the candy-store roof.

The statue was placed in a neighbor's driveway while the county and preservationists searched for a new home. At the eleventh hour, Mike Barber, president of the Garden Acres Mutual Water Co., read about Santa's plight and donated an empty lot his company owned.

After a 30-mile, logistically challenging freeway odyssey to get the old guy from Carpinteria to Ventura County, Barber and a team of volunteers began working on everything from new paint to fencing for Santa. First they built a concrete foundation and repaired the statue. Even with 1,800 feet of shrink wrap, nylon straps and duct tape, Santa's arm and some of his gift bag had fallen off during the move.

Next, they removed the old paint and brought in a Santa Barbara artist to redo his face. Twenty-five gallons of paint later, Santa looks like new.

Neighborhood kids and local Boy Scout troops planted several redwood and evergreen trees, and a green wrought-iron fence was put up to guard Santa from vandals. At night, lights around the statue illuminate this dusty neighborhood, which is a mixture of industrial properties and mobile homes.

"This place was all ugly, with all kinds of broken glass everywhere," said 12-year-old Brenda Martinez, who lives in a nearby mobile home park and who helped plant some of the trees. "I never thought they could build something so pretty right here."

Today, Santa sits waving to motorists on the northbound Ventura Freeway between Rice Avenue and Del Norte Boulevard.

This post was originally published on Dec. 24, 2010.

Dec. 15, 1980: The 15-foot-tall Santa sits atop a candy shop on Santa Claus Lane, a small strip of shops and restaurants off the 101 Freeway near Carpinteria.
Dec. 15, 1980: The 15-foot-tall Santa sits atop a candy shop on Santa Claus Lane, a small strip of shops and restaurants off the 101 Freeway near Carpinteria. (Los Angeles Times)
May 25, 1999: The towering Santa on Santa Claus Lane is visible from the 101 Freeway.
May 25, 1999: The towering Santa on Santa Claus Lane is visible from the 101 Freeway. (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)
Jan. 27, 2003: Workers lower the Santa statue from the roof of a candy store on Santa Claus Lane in Carpinteria.
Jan. 27, 2003: Workers lower the Santa statue from the roof of a candy store on Santa Claus Lane in Carpinteria. (Bryan Chan / Los Angeles Times)
Jan. 29, 2003: Traffic backs up as Santa's convoy inches its way along the 101 Freeway between Carpinteria and Nyeland Acres. The 30-mile trip took nearly four hours.
Jan. 29, 2003: Traffic backs up as Santa's convoy inches its way along the 101 Freeway between Carpinteria and Nyeland Acres. The 30-mile trip took nearly four hours. (Bob Carey / Los Angeles Times)
Jan. 29, 2003: Workers in a strawberry field in Oxnard stop to watch as the giant Santa, swaddled in shrink wrap and duct tape, travels past on Gonzales Road en route to his new home.
Jan. 29, 2003: Workers in a strawberry field in Oxnard stop to watch as the giant Santa, swaddled in shrink wrap and duct tape, travels past on Gonzales Road en route to his new home. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)
Nov. 28, 2003: Well-wishers gather at the dedication ceremony for the 5-ton statue at the new Santa Park in Nyeland Acres.
Nov. 28, 2003: Well-wishers gather at the dedication ceremony for the 5-ton statue at the new Santa Park in Nyeland Acres. (Bryan Chan / Los Angeles Times)
Nov. 29, 2015:. The cleaned-up statue sits at Santa Park in Nyeland Acres next to the 101 Freeway near Oxnard. During the summer, Santa wears sunglasses.
Nov. 29, 2015:. The cleaned-up statue sits at Santa Park in Nyeland Acres next to the 101 Freeway near Oxnard. During the summer, Santa wears sunglasses. (Scott Harrison / Los Angeles Times)
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