Business Networking

Holiday World matriarch Koch
to speak to Madison Chamber

She will serve as keynote
at the Small Business Dinner

By Helen E. McKinney
Contributing Writer

(March 2012) – Pat Koch has been instrumental in running Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari since 1960 when she married its developer and owner, Bill Koch. Though Bill is now deceased, Koch continues a legacy that focuses on family fun and core values.

Pat Koch

Pat Koch

Koch’s father-in-law, Louis J. Koch, a retired industrialist from Evansville, Ind., came up with the idea for Santa Claus Land (the previous name for Holiday World). Santa Claus Land officially opened Aug. 3, 1946, and didn’t charge admission until 1955. It quickly became the world’s first theme park.
Today, Koch is the secretary of Koch Development Corp., which operates the 120-acre amusement park. Splashin’ Safari, the waterpark, was added in 1993. At age 80, she is also director of the park’s values system.
If you live in the Louisville media market, you no doubt have seen her on numerous TV commercials or heard her on radio ads for the park during its summer season.
Koch’s father, Jim Yellig, was the park’s Santa Claus while she was growing up in Mariah Hill, Ind. From her father she learned what it meant to commit to a cause and give back to the community. From her mother, Isabella, she learned hard work and how to be strong.
Today, Koch is a world recognized business leader. For that reason, she has been invited to speak March 13 at the Madison Area Chamber of Commerce’s Small Business Dinner and Awards Banquet. Scheduled from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Clifty Falls Inn, the event will begin with a networking hour from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m., which will include wine tasting provided by Madison Vineyards and beer tasting provided by The Pub’s microbrewery.
During this hour, a drawing will be held for a $1,000 marketing package for small businesses. Dinner will be served from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m., with Koch speaking from 7:30 to 8 p.m. Business awards will be presented at 8 p.m.
No stranger to awards, Koch was inducted into the 2011 Evansville Business Hall of Fame. “She’s a wonderful, dynamic speaker,” said Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari spokesperson Paula Werne.
Koch has been instrumental in the growth of the theme park over the years. “She’s very involved and likes to concentrate on everyone’s people skills,” said Werne. She’s there everyday, and if she’s not, people ask for her. “She’s very hand’s on.”

Madison Chamber
Small Business Dinner
& Awards Banquet

Tuesday, March 13 at Clifty Inn, Madison, Ind.
• 5:30 p.m.: Wine and beer tasting reception with Madison Vineyards and The Pub Microbrewery
• 6:30 p.m.: Dinner
• 7:30 p.m.: Guest speaker Pat Koch of Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari
• 8 p.m.: Business Awards
• Tickets: $35. RSVP by calling (812) 265-3135

Werne said Koch is “more concerned with how employees treat and greet guests, how clean the park is and providing fast service.” Her support ensures that the park will operate on its four cornerstones: safety, service, friendliness and cleanliness.
As a testament to all of Koch and her family’s hard work, the number of visitors coming through the gate within a year’s time has “topped the 1 million mark in attendance the last four years,” said Werner. The park has also been named the World’s Friendliest Park (1998-2008) and the World’s Cleanest Park (2000-2009).
These feats are remarkable when one considers that Koch had decided at age 19 to dedicate her life to a religious order. After high school she joined the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul in St. Louis. Koch was a nurse with the Daughters of Charity in St. Louis, New Orleans and Chicago, having received a bachelor’s degree in nursing from St. Louis University.
Koch left the Daughters of Charity when her parents became ill in 1960. She married her husband in December of the same year. Together, they had five children, one of whom is deceased. Their son, Will Koch, a Notre Dame University graduate, died in 2010 at age 48 at his home in Santa Claus, Ind. from what was believed to be complications from diabetes. Her other son, Dan, now runs the operation.
Koch has 13 grandchildren that keep her busy. She remains very active in church, having been a major force in raising funds to construct St. Nicholas Church in Santa Claus, Ind. In 2002, she received a master’s degree in Pastoral Ministry from Loyola University. She is currently working on her autobiography.
Ticket prices for the Small Business Dinner & Awards Banquet are $30 per person. A portion of this money will be donated to the Santa’s Elves Program at Holiday World. This is a volunteer project that ensures every child’s Letter to Santa mailed in the town’s post office will receive a personal reply.
The success of Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari goes back to Koch’s work ethic of centering on the family experience. “She makes sure you have a good time at the park,” said Werner.

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