Santa’s Castle season in question, director terminated

Friday, August 14, 2020
Santa’s Castle has been a holiday tradition in Storm Lake since the early 1960s.

The position of the longtime director of Santa’s Castle has been terminated, and it is questionable whether Storm Lake’s holiday showplace will be able to open at all this year, after COVID-19 concerns have dried up revenue for Castle operations and raised safety concerns.

“How do you fundraise in a pandemic?” the board that operates the facility asked in a statement this week. “As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, Santa’s Castle is navigating uncharted territory. All the Castle’s summer and fall fundraisers had to be canceled, which are crucial for raising money,” the statement reads.

“For a small organization, that’s huge,” said Board President Ron Hott.

Santa’s Castle is not alone. Museums, charities, and nonprofits across the country are raising the alarm that the economic crisis brought on by the pandemic poses an existential threat to their operations. 

“COVID has forced us to take a very hard look at our business operations,” said Hott. With no money coming in, the Board had to act, its statement reads. “We’re just not in a financial position to meet payroll for the director in addition to the monthly expenses for upkeep on the building and grounds, utilities, etc.”

The position of Castle Director, occupied by Ron Stevenson for the past 12 years, regrettably had to be eliminated, the board said.

Stevenson announced his termination himself Sunday on the Santa’s Castle Facebook page. “I would like to thank the many volunteers and thousands of visitors for spending their Christmas season with me. It was a great way to meet new people and enjoy the holiday,” he said.

The federal Paycheck Protection Program, a lifeline for many organizations during the last few months, wasn’t an option for the Castle, which is classified as a 501(c)(4) non-profit. 

Could COVID-19 cancel a favorite holiday tradition?

Since 1962, Santa’s Castle has been dedicated to bringing out the kid in everyone. As the 2020 holiday season approaches, the castle board is “in limbo” about whether it will be able to open, primarily because the health and well-being of thousands of visitors, as well as the dedicated volunteers, is the top priority. “We appreciate everyone’s understanding during these challenging times and look forward to the day we can share the magic of Santa’s Castle with our visitors once again,” Hott said.

While it is possible there be no Castle operation for the coming holiday season, the board feels it has taken the necessary steps to ensure that this longstanding holiday tradition can continue into the future. 

In the interim, the board plans to work on recruiting new board members and volunteers. In particular, the board is seeking a volunteer with a pick-up to transport cans to the Cherokee recycling center, as can-collecting is the only active and ongoing revenue generator this year. The Castle is also asking supporters to consider making a donation to support their efforts during this time. In lieu of fundraisers this year, the board is encouraging the public to consider making a difference by giving “time, talents, or treasure.”

Contact Ron Hott, (712) 299-4402 or Rhonda McQuigg, (712) 749-9247 for more information.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: