In southwestern Indiana, nearly 70 years ago, an Evansville industrialist had an inspiration. With little there for children but a post office that handled Santa letters, why not offer something more. And that is exactly what Louis J. Koch did. He opened a theme park with a Mother Goose ride and toy elf shop. Years later his son Bill and grandson Will, took the dream even further, adding roller coasters and a giant water slide. Today Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari draws more than a million visitors a year.
But the park built by generations of a family to entertain families is now splitting a family apart. Will Koch’s widow and his brother are battling for control of the family park. According toblooloop.com, Lori fired Dan as interim president and kicked him off the company board, and they are no longer speaking.
Lori Koch, 51 year widow of Will Koch, says she wants the park for her three younger children. Recently while cruising through park in a golf cart as roller coasters jutted into the sky, Lori admitted to feeling pained by the family strife. “It’s hard, it’s difficult, I’m torn,” she said. “Who wants to be at odds with your family?”
Dan Koch, 48 year old brother of Will Koch and a lawyer from Florida says he wants some of the park back. Recently he spent over an hour on the phone talking fondly about Holiday World past and present. While discussing the feud, he became somber, thinking of being cut off from the place he spent summers as a boy since he was 7. “Any kind of family business, there’s tension,” he said. “I’ve got to be positive and move forward. I’d like to return in some lesser role someday. I’ll work anywhere, maybe pick up trash.”
It is still unknown what the outcome of the ownership of the park will be, or what will happen with the family feud but everyone can agree on one thing: No one was prepared for the Koch family feud as it happened.