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Dec. 15, 1980: The 15-foot-tall Santa sits atop the candy shop at Santa Claus Lane, a small strip of shops and restaurants near the 101 Freeway near Carpinteria. This photo was published with a Dec. 23, 1980, Los Angeles Times View section profile of the tourists attraction.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Martha Hartnett / Los Angeles Times

May 25, 1999: The towering Kris Kringle on Santa Clause Lane is visible from the 101 Freewau near Carpinteria. This photo accompanied a May 30, 1999, Los Angeles Times story reporting that Santa faced removal if a new development plan was approved. The plans were later approved.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: 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 near Carpinteria. The statue, a landmark for motorists for 52 years, was moved to a vacant lot on Ventura Boulevard near Oxnard.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: 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.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Bob Carey / Los Angeles Times

Jan. 29, 2003: Low clearance at the California 33 overpass on West Main Street made it necessary for workers to take the 15-foot-tall Santa off a truck and push it to the other side on rollers.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: 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 its new home.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times

Jan. 29, 2003: Bailey Barber, 2, of Oxnard, climbs a fence to get a better look at Santa Claus after it reached its final destination off Ventura Boulevard in Nyeland Acres near Oxnard.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: 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. This photo accompanied the Los Angeles Times story by Sandra Murillo quoted in the text below this gallery.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Bryan Chan / Los Angeles Times

Aug. 1, 2010. Statue of St. Nicholas sits at the Santa Park in Nyeland Acres next to the 101 Freeway near Oxnard. During the summer, he wears sunglasses.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Scott Harrison / Los Angeles Times

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Saving Santa

After 50 years sitting atop a Carpinteria candy store Santa was headed to the trash heap. But in January, 2003, Santa was rescued, moved and given a face-lift.

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 whole rescue 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 Ave. and Del Norte Blvd. on the edge of Oxnard.

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