You could spend an ordinary December afternoon in downtown Cincinnati, drifting from restaurant to restaurant, eating and drinking, all in the name of the Christmas spirit and a good cause.
Or you could don the costume of the Jolly Old Elf and join an estimated 5,000 Santas for some holiday revelry.
Cincinnati Santacon, on Dec. 9 this year, is an annual event that raises money for the Cure Starts Now Foundation, an organization devoted to fighting pediatric brain cancer.
One of 60 Santacons across the U.S., the Cincinnati event has grown exponentially, according to an organizer who wanted to be identified only as “Kris Kringle.”
“We had 27 Santas the first year,” he said. “Then 85, then 250. Last year, we had 2,000 Santas. This year, we’re expecting 5,000. For the participating bars downtown, it will be their second-biggest night of the year.”
“Kringle” said many of the Santas arrive with groups of similarly attired friends.
“The average group is about seven Santas,” he said.
To participate, prospective Santas simply have to register at the Cincinnati Santacon website. You will pay $10, which goes to the Cure Starts Now, for your wristband.
Once you register, you will receive an email that includes a list of participating bars and a road map. The initial meeting place is Jack Cincinnati Casino at noon. From there, you will take one of two official routes — the North Pole, which runs through Over-the-Rhine, or the South Pole, which runs through the Banks.
The website also includes a tip sheet for being Santa, which includes hints on how to keep your beard clean, how to interact with the kiddos (don’t put parents in a bind by promising little Johnny that he’ll definitely get that new Xbox this year), and generally how to behave.
“Respect the suit,” Kringle said. “We’ve had a few people overindulge (on the beer) more than they should, but we’ve had no real problems. Ordinarily, there’s nothing going on downtown at noon on a December Saturday. Then all of a sudden, you’re at the Holy Grail and there’s a 1,000 Santas hanging around. It’s crazy when you see it.”