World matriarch Koch
to speak to Madison Chamber
will serve as keynote
at the Small Business Dinner
Helen E. McKinney
(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.
Kochs 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 didnt charge admission until 1955. It quickly
became the worlds 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 parks values
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.
Kochs father, Jim Yellig, was the parks 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
Commerces 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
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. Shes 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. Shes very involved and likes to concentrate on everyones
people skills, said Werne. Shes there everyday, and if shes
not, people ask for her. Shes very hands on.
Small Business Dinner
& Awards Banquet
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 &
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 familys hard work, the number
of visitors coming through the gate within a years time has topped
the 1 million mark in attendance the last four years, said Werner.
The park has also been named the Worlds Friendliest Park (1998-2008)
and the Worlds 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 bachelors 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 masters
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 Santas
Elves Program at Holiday World. This is a volunteer project that ensures
every childs Letter to Santa mailed in the towns post office
will receive a personal reply.
The success of Holiday World & Splashin Safari goes back to
Kochs work ethic of centering on the family experience. She
makes sure you have a good time at the park, said Werner.
Back to March 2012 Articles.