Photos of Ron McKeethen restoring the 32-foot Santa of Evansville, Indiana

Indiana Contractor Revives a Larger-Than-Life Santa

Santa Claus is coming back to an Indiana town, thanks to a local contractor and paint donations from the Sherwin-Williams Company.

The rise and fall of a 32-foot Claus

The story starts back in the early 1970s, when a group of Evansville businessmen came up with the idea to install a huge statue of Santa Claus in the southern Indiana city.

Their efforts produced a 32-foot-tall, 1,500-pound Claus erected in time for Christmas 1974 outside of the Evansville courthouse. The statue was later moved to the city entrance before being taken down and forgotten.

No one had seen the statue for more than 20 years until Ron McKeethen of Ron’s Custom Finishes found it in pieces in a salvage yard.

Putting the statue together again

In January 2016, McKeethen took these pieces of Christmas Past to a warehouse for reassembling with help from a group of community volunteers including local sculptor Bob Zasadny. The Sherwin-Williams Company donated the paint for the makeover.

“After McKeethan committed to the project he knew he wanted this project to be done right, so he met with Evansville Commercial Branch Manager, Dan Jochum,” says Blake Wallace, Tri-State District Manager for the Sherwin-Williams Company. “McKeethan’s company motto is ‘Doing it right costs less than doing over’ and he took on this project with the same attitude.

The coatings required to do the job right

“Adhesion and gloss and color retention were key factors to completing this project successfully, so Jochum recommended two coats of Extreme Bond Primer, known for its tenacious adhesion. He also wanted to ensure Santa’s big red coat remained bright and shiny for many years to come. The clear choice was Pro Industrial™ Waterbased Acrolon 100 Polyurethane due to its superior gloss and color retention.”

Unveiling the spirit of the season

On Sept. 24, a parade including 20 (human) Santas escorted the freshly repaired and repainted statue to its new home on Highway 41 outside Peckenpaugh Plumbing and Custom Remodeling.
“All the hundreds of hours that I’ve spent working on this is like nothing compared to seeing all the people smiling and waving,” Zasadny told a local TV station.

“I hope that they think of Santa Claus, his giving spirit, his community spirit and what he means to every child that drives though Indiana,” added McKeethen.

This article was originally published in the Winter 2016 issue of PPC magazine. Story by Mike Starling, PPC Editor. Photography courtesy Ron’s Custom Finishes. Read about other successful painting projects in the PPC digital archive.