Gov. Eric Holcomb will next month present the 2022 Sachem Award to Patricia Koch, one of the original partners of Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari in Spencer County. The award is the state’s highest honor and is used to “recognize an individual whose lifetime of excellence and moral virtue that has brought credit and honor to Indiana.”
Koch, 91, operated Holiday World, originally known as Santa Claus Land, with her late husband, Bill, and helped lead the theme park’s growth.
Santa Claus Land was created by Bill’s father, Louis J. Koch, in 1946, and nearly 40 years later, the park was expanded and its name changed to Holiday World. Splashin’ Safari was added in 1993.
Holcomb’s office says Koch’s community leadership is also being recognized. She was involved in the building of St. Nicholas Church in Santa Claus, Ind. and founded the Santa Claus Museum.
Koch also oversees the Patricia Koch Family Education Endowment, which provides financial assistance to students at Reitz Memorial High School and Mater Dei High School.
In a news release, Holcomb called Koch a “Southern Indiana powerhouse” who put the town of Santa Claus on the map.
“While her pathway to success has had many turns and detours, the fundamental theme in her life’s work is to serve others,” said Holcomb. “Pat embraces her fellow Hoosiers with love and kindness. From the countless smiles you will find at Holiday World or the love you feel from each letter she writes to a child who asks Santa Claus for that special gift, Pat is a reason the spirit of Christmas is alive and well and why she deserves Indiana’s highest honor.”
Koch will receive the award during a ceremony at the Will Koch Family Auditorium at Heritage Hill High School on Dec. 2.
The Sachem Award was established in 2005 by then-Gov. Mitch Daniels, inspired by the Sachems, an organization comprised of business leaders introduced by former Gov. Edgar Whitcomb in 1970.
Koch is the sixth honoree named by Holcomb. Previous recipients include civic leader Jim Morris, Holocaust survivor Eva Mozes Kor, and Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Sammy L. Davis.