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PUTNEY, Vt. - Santa’s Sweet Shoppe will serve its last slice of homemade fudge. Santa’s Alpine Train will make its final slow loop on its circular track past elves, deer, and a covered bridge. And Santa Claus will listen to the last whisper of a wide-eyed child seated on his lap.

After 54 years, Santa’s Land, a Christmas theme park of colorful cottages, zoo animals, and retro attractions that has hosted generations of children and their families, is closing today.

The owners, Timothy and Leslie Wells, cite the high cost of gasoline and the reduced number of visitors because of the economic downturn as the main reasons why they are shutting the park.


Another reason behind the demise of Santa’s Land might be that theme parks are not that popular anymore, said Chris Harlow, who grew up in nearby Westminster and used to do odd jobs at the park as a boy in the early 1970s, riding his bike to work with his friends. “Kids have other ways to entertain themselves these days,’’ he said.

And it might be true. No doubt some children wonder why they should ride Santa’s Alpine Train when they can play Grand Theft Auto V on Xbox 360.

But the day before the park closed forever, nostalgia for simpler times and simpler attractions reigned in Santa’s Land, as visitors of all ages filled Mistletoe Mill Book Shop and Santa’s Country Store.

Marcia LaBrecque of Brattleboro used to come to the park as a child growing up in Ipswich, Mass. She later brought her own son, who is now 50. Yesterday she led her granddaughter, Mia Parsons, from the merry-go-round to the emu cage to the home of Santa Claus.

“Just coming here, it gives you a thrill, and the kids have so much fun,’’ she said, as Mia rushed toward the llama hut.


Krissy Tataro came with more than a dozen relatives for one more look at the North Pole Village and to pose for one more photograph in Santa’s sleigh.

“We came here every year as kids,’’ she said. A few family members sniffed back tears.

Even people who had never visited before caught the nostalgic vibe.

“There are so many elements of this place that remind me of growing up, and around Christmas time, all the memories I had of my siblings with my family,’’ said Lyndsay Jackson, a Keene State College student.

Timothy and Leslie Wells, both Vermont natives, also recall coming as children to the park, which was opened in August 1957 by Jack Poppele, a New Jersey native who chose the spot along Route 5 as it winds between the Green Mountain foothills and the Connecticut River.

The Wells couple bought the place eight years ago, and business boomed until the recession struck, said Timothy Wells, who drives the bright red train. “That was before gas become so expensive and people stopped coming here,’’ he said yesterday.

The owners tried dropping the price of tickets to $10 (from $15 for adults, $13 for children), but that did not work, he said before he climbed on the half-full train and called out, “All aboard’’ through crackling speakers (maintaining the equipment has also been a struggle.)


After closing today, they will start taking down the rides, emptying the stores, and packing up the wooden elves, and then will shut the doors for the final time.

“We worked hard, but sometimes hard work is not enough,’’ said Leslie Wells, who has sold many a hot chocolate at the Candy Cane Cupboard. “It’s going to be a hard weekend.’’

David Filipov can be reached at dfilipov@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @davidfilipov.