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Shelton welcomes World's Fair tourists

Shelton-Mason County Journal of Shelton, Washington

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In mid-February 1962, artist Clarence Beauchamp was putting the finishing touches on a giant plywood Santa Claus that would greet visitors passing through Shelton on their way to or from the Century 21 Seattle World's Fair that would open in April. (There was no Highway 101 bypass around Shelton in 1962 and all traffic came through town.) The cheerful Santa Claus, with his bag full of Mason County products, was sponsored by the Shelton Chamber of Commerce and was inspired by the "Christmastown, U.S.A." theme the town had adopted several years earlier. Plans were to erect Santa at the northwest corner of Railroad Avenue and First Street, then move the "Santa's House," located on the Post Office lawn, to the site and make it a permanent tourist information booth.

On March 15, city and PUD 3 work crews installed the two-piece 32-foot-high Santa Claus. According to the Shelton-Mason County Journal, "Tourists passing through Shelton this year, probably greatly increased in numbers due to the Century 21 World's Fair in Seattle, will get a vivid message that Shelton is 'Christmastown, U.S.A.' when this eye-popping plywood Santa Claus rivets their attention." A special feature of the Santa attraction was a hinged door through which youngsters could put their heads and be photographed.

On April 6, "Weather fit only for ducks failed to dampen the spirits and energies of ladies of the Dirt Dobbers Garden Club and city street crews" who turned out to landscape the area around the new Santa Claus.

Early in April, the Shelton Jaycees (Junior Chamber of Commerce) began a campaign to encourage local merchants to use World's Fair Trade Dollars. The souvenir gold coins were worth one dollar at the Fair and at cooperating businesses throughout the state during the six months the Fair would be open. The trade dollar program was jointly sponsored by the Washington State Jaycees, the Century 21 Corp., and Greater Seattle Inc. Jim Hartley, Jaycee president, said that "participation in the Trade Dollar program will not cost local merchants or their customers a cent unless they do not redeem the coins prior to October 21."

On June 17, Mr. and Mrs. Clay Beal of Mapleton, Oregon, married only the day before, were stopped by a Washington State Patrolman as they drove along the highway near Shelton, presented with a replica of Shelton's famous log monument, and taken in tow by Les Joslin, chairman of the Chamber of Commerce Century 21 "operation smile" committee. In a special Century 21 Oldsmobile made available for the occasion by Mell Chevrolet, Joslin took the Beals on a tour of Shelton, Hood Canal, Lake Cushman, Staircase and Buck Mountain. The Beals were then guests of the Cottage Cafe for dinner, the Mill Creek Motel for Sunday night, the Shelton Hotel for breakfast Monday morning, and Ritner's Broiler for lunch. Between breakfast and lunch they were conducted on a tour of Simpson's waterfront mills while their car received a wash job at the Enco Service Station.

Shelton's giant Santa Claus continued to greet visitors at the corner of First and Railroad until about 1999, when it was moved to Post Office Park. At some point, Shelton's Christmastown icon was retired to Hunter Farms on state Route 106, near the Skokomish River.

Jan Parker can be reached at

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Original Publication Date: March 10, 2016

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