Christmas Lights Continue To Twinkle Despite Santa Express Vandalism, Theft

After reports of vandalism and theft to the Frankfort Main Street Santa Express, tours will be cancelled for the upcoming weekend during the Christmas Parade and Christmas Tree Lighting Festival, but the community is invited to continue exploring the Festival of Lights at TPA Park and meeting Santa around the community.

The Santa Express tours are currently frozen due to reports of vandalism and theft.
– Photo courtesy of The City of Frankfort.

Kim Stevens, Frankfort Main Street Executive Director, released a statement regarding the situation, stating that the organization received notice that the trailer was vandalized while parked at the Street Department on Tuesday. Stevens stated that the vandalism and theft is currently under investigation with help from local law enforcement.

“The power source for the heat and the lights was removed, causing some damage with electrical and things like the step going into the trailer was ripped off as well,” Stevens said. “We don’t know whether they tried to take the trailer and just couldn’t or just took what they could get their hands on.”

Stevens stated that when the theft occurred, the removal of vital systems within the trailer caused further damage that would require repairs, which the organization has been asked to avoid as the investigation proceeds.

“When they took the power source, they messed up the electrical system, so we don’t know to what extent that damage is,” Stevens said. “At this point, we don’t have a proposed time for when we can get that back in because with the investigation and then by the time we’re able to get someone to work on it, because they don’t want us to do anything with it yet, we might not be able to get that trailer back up and going.”

Stevens commented that the organization members are unaware of the exact timeframe that the vandalism and theft occurred, but they have narrowed the incident to have happened from the end of July to Nov. 28 this year.

“We don’t know when this happened because the last time that we took it back was after the Hot Dog Festival,” Stevens said. “It was sometime between the Hot Dog Festival and Tuesday. We were going out to get it to clean it up, sanitize everything and make sure everything was ready to go. That’s when we discovered this.”

Stevens further stated that the vandalism and theft were not the sole setbacks the Santa Express was experiencing as the organization was in the process of acquiring new insurance for this year, but due to the recent events, the talks of insurance have stalled.

“We were in the process of upgrading insurance as well, so right now we can’t really go to new insurance because we have an active case open now,” Stevens said. “There’s several complicated parts to this, but if we can get something rented, we will definitely have something available. We’re hoping not this weekend but hopefully by the next weekend.”

Stevens expressed that the Frankfort Main Street team has attempted to find an alternative to the Santa Express to ensure that families can continue creating memories with each other during the holiday season, but she stated that the attempts have not found any solutions currently.

“We have been working on an alternative, and at this point, all of those things have fallen through because we’re trying to rent something and this is a busy time,” Stevens said. “We don’t want to just rent a bus. We want the experience to be a special experience because that’s what they’re coming for.”

The Santa Express is a mode of transportation for community members to utilize to explore the TPA Park Festival of Lights, but Stevens expressed that it provides an experience unlike any other for many families in Clinton County.

“I am bummed,” Stevens said. “I was sick to my stomach when I heard about it. We take about 1,500 people through the TPA Park during the Christmas season, and those are people that have been doing that for the past 12 years. This would be the 13th year, so they started a family tradition, so that breaks my heart.”

Stevens commented that the Santa Express has become a staple of the Frankfort community with visitors from across Indiana visiting Prairie Creek Park solely to explore the Santa Express through the Festival of Lights and meet Santa.

“We’ve had people from every single county in the state as well as several from out of state that have been visiting family, and they come back to do this every year,” Stevens said. “It’s going to be a hard season to not have that.”

Stevens hinted that the Santa Express is expected to receive upgrades for the 2024 season as a result of the incident, which has allowed the team to craft a plan to create an even more engaging experience in the future.

Santa will still be greeting the community at Prairie Creek Park beginning Dec. 2 every day except Wednesdays, where he will be greeting the community at TPA Park for the Festival of Lights instead. Santa will be flying back to the North Pole on Dec. 16, and the Grinch will be tasked with meeting families during Santa’s absence.

Stay tuned to Clinton County Daily News and Boone County Daily News for updated information about the Santa Express as Christmas draws closer.