My kids and I always wave at Santa Claus facing the 101 freeway as we drive north through Camarillo and Oxnard. Since 2003 this 20 foot Santa has resided in the unincorporated area of Nyeland Acres, bringing smiles to the faces of passersby.
Constructed in 1947, near the community of Carpinteria, Santa Claus was part of a roadside attraction known as Santa Claus Lane, a two-lane roadway that paralleled the south side of U.S. Highway 101, just west of the City of Carpinteria. Between the late 1940s and the mid-1960s, Santa Claus Lane featured a thriving array of stores restaurants, motels, and a post office, as well as attractions, including a child’s train, small zoo, and pony rides, that catered both to travelers and nearby communities.
For over six years, Santa Barbara filmmaker Jody Nelson has chronicled the history of this popular Santa that will be made into a full-length film, "Roadside Santa." Through melding stories of community residents, interviews with scholars and activists, archival footage and stills, the documentary explores themes of cultural transition in California as experienced in the disparate communities that Santa has called home. “Roadside Santa” illuminates how the residents of Nyeland Acres have welcomed Santa to their neighborhood and reinvented him as a potent and positive symbol of community identity, demonstrating the adaptive capacities of new immigrant communities and American culture alike.
UPDATE Nov 2015: It does not appear that this film has been finalized as an fyi.
The video below highlights some some of the scenes, stories and interviews, as well as the popular annual Santa to the Sea Half Marathon that supports a toy drive for local underprivileged kids. Watch it! You'll learn about our own Ventura County Roadside Santa and how he brings joy to the local community.
Nelson is nearly finished with the film but is still interested in Santa Claus Lane photos, film footage and memorabilia from the 1940s to present day, Santa Claus Lane stories from people who lived/worked there and the whereabouts of the miniature train and carousel that used to reside there. She also seeks additional funding to help finalize the film and bring it to film festivals and perhaps TV.