East Dundee park manager loves job too much to leave

  • Don Holliman, left, accepts an award honoring his 50 years of service to Santa's Village and, later, Santa's Village Azoosment Park from owner Jason Sierpien.

    Don Holliman, left, accepts an award honoring his 50 years of service to Santa's Village and, later, Santa's Village Azoosment Park from owner Jason Sierpien. COURTESY OF SANTA'S VILLAGE AZOOSMENT PARK

  • Don Holliman, general manager of Santa's Village Azoosment Park in East Dundee, was part of the St. Patrick's Day parade in downtown Chicago last March.

    Don Holliman, general manager of Santa's Village Azoosment Park in East Dundee, was part of the St. Patrick's Day parade in downtown Chicago last March. COURTESY OF SANTA'S VILLAGE AZOOSMENT PARK

  • Don Holliman in 1975 works in the office at then called Santa's Village in East Dundee.

    Don Holliman in 1975 works in the office at then called Santa's Village in East Dundee. COURTESY OF DON HOLLIMAN

  • Robbin and Pat Pipp are owners of Bright Angel Wines.

    Robbin and Pat Pipp are owners of Bright Angel Wines. COURTESY OF BRIGHT ANGEL WINES

  • Mary Lou Pier

    Mary Lou Pier

  • Kathy Roeser

    Kathy Roeser

  • Mike Cusack

    Mike Cusack

 
 
Posted7/3/2016 1:00 AM

Don Holliman of East Dundee has seen a lot of changes after working for 50 years at Santa's Village Azoosment Park in East Dundee, along with its predecessor parks.

From ride operator to general manager, Holliman has seen how manual rides changed with technology, more safety features were added, and how the kids grew up, became successful and returned with their own kids.

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What hasn't changed is how much he has enjoyed watching others enjoy themselves. So it was just a fringe benefit that he was recently honored by his company for working for 50 years. Holliman said he plans to remain as general manager and can't see retiring.

"It wasn't a routine job. It wasn't like going to an office every day," said Holliman, 70.

Holliman was born in Chicago and grew up in Bloomingdale. He loved going to the old Riverview in Chicago as a kid. When he turned 16, he got a job at Adventureland in Addison in 1966.

Then Adventureland bought Santa's Village and Holliman continued to work for the new company and, eventually, moved up the ranks. He moved from kiddie rides to the Ferris wheel to ride manager and co-park manager.

By the 1970s, Adventureland was sold to investors at about the same time as Great America opened. Eventually Adventureland closed and Holliman worked for Santa's Village in East Dundee, which expanded with more parks in California.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

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Since the company also owned a nearby ice skating rink, he became assistant ice rink manager, where he met his future wife. Susa had been a professional ice skater at the time and was recovering from an injury, so she went to the park for practice. They married in 1968 and had a son.

Santa's Village closed by 2006, and Holliman took various jobs as a retail salesman at Wicke's Furniture, Homemaker's, Value City and elsewhere. But some of those stores also closed, and he eventually grew tired of retail. So he retired in 2010, but not for long.

About two weeks later, he got a call from the new owners hoping to resurrect Santa's Village, renaming it Santa's Village Azoosment Park. They asked him to return as general manage of the park.

"I liked the business and really didn't like retirement," he said.

The new park was much smaller at Route 25 and 72, but eventually, the Sierpien family spent four to five months cleaning up the site. Then they started bringing in more rides, including some from the original park that were refurbished. They opened in late 2010 just before winter. By 2011, they had their first season in full swing.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"The park had a lot of memories for me," Holliman said. "It was the association with people. I stayed in touch with a lot of people. It was those memories and my interactions with those people that became friendships. That's what I had missed the most."

FastTracks

Pat and Robbin Pipp, owners of Geneva-based Bright Angel Wines, said their 2014 Sangiacomo chardonnay won a gold medal and was awarded Best Sonoma County chardonnay and their 2014 Sangiacomo Pinot Noir was awarded a silver medal at the New York International Wine Competition. Also their in the competition. ... Mary Lou Pier, a CPA from Kildeer, received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Chicago-based Illinois CPA Society.

Amy Kite and her team have been named one of America's top real estate teams by Real Trends. "The Thousand Top Real Estate Professionals" is a national awards ranking sponsored annually by Real Trends. Ranking No. 138 nationally for closed transactions, the team had its best year ever, with 341 closed transaction sides in 2015. This more than doubled the previous year's 158 closed sales. She is based out of the Naperville Keller Williams Infinity office. ... Stephen W. DeFilippis, financial adviser with his Wheaton-based DeFilippis Financial Group, has launched a new website for his clients and will provide tax and wealth management information. ... Kathy Roeser of Winnetka is a financial adviser with Morgan Stanley in Chicago who was named to the Barron's annual list of America's Top 100 Women Financial Advisors.

Steven Handmaker, chief marketing officer of Schaumburg-based Assurance, and colleague Michael Alberico, senior vice president of construction practice leader, are active with the company's support of the American Heart Association. Handmaker said he has lost three family members to heart disease, and Alberico said he lost his father to a heart attack and heart disease runs through his extended family.

Mike Cusack has been promoted to senior vice president and regional manager at Chicago Title Insurance Co., a provider of title insurance and related services for real estate investments. He will oversee the company's services in Cook, DuPage, Kane, Kendall, Lake, McHenry and Will counties.

• There's more to business than just the bottom line. We want to tell you about the people that make business work. Send news about people in business to akukec@dailyherald.com. Follow Anna Marie Kukec on LinkedIn and Facebook and as AMKukec on Twitter.

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