Santa's Land, New England tradition, closes

It's the end of an era for New Englanders who've grown up going to Santa's Land in Putney, Vt. After more than half a century, the attraction has closed its doors. And it's left many fans and families who've made it a Christmas tradition wondering if Santa may one day return.

Santa's Land opened on August 10, 1957.

"It is a little tiny park in Vermont, but it has a lot of heart," says Nancy Grant, a Santa's Land patron who has visited the park her entire life. "The people that work here are the people who are here year after year. They talk to you, they know you, (and) they remember you."

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One woman told CBS News, "We definitely want this tradition to pass off to our children and let them bring their children here, as well."

But Lisa Wells, owner of the park, shut its doors due to financial issues.

"I am very, very sad. I am very disappointed," she said. "My husband and I bought Santa's Land eight years ago. We were going great guns for the first five years, (but then) the bigger economy tanked, gas prices soared and we felt it, and we never got it back after that."

Grant said her family is heartbroken over the park's closing. "My daughter came downstairs and said, 'Mom, I've got sad news.' We were crushed we could not believe it. This is our Christmas; this is what Christmas is all about."

Grant recalled, "Two years ago, I had an aneurysm... I couldn't walk yet and my family brought me up here in a wheelchair. We came and my grandson sat in my lap and that is what Santa's Land is to this family."

Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin said the changing vacation scene is contributing to the decline of places like Santa's Land. "We are in an era where individuals business -- like Santa's Land -- are having a tougher time because, at our ski resorts and our ski mountains, they are becoming all-season resorts," he said. "They have all kinds of things to do in addition to skiing. In the old days, they were just ski resorts. That does put pressure on business like Santa's Land, which are out there all alone without the services that you find at our ski areas and mountains."

Wells said, "If I could do anything in the world that I wanted to do, it would be to work and have something like this."

Grant said her family's Christmas wish is that Santa's Land "will stay open for another (54) years."

The park closed its doors this past weekend.

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