Better watch out!

Reno Santa Crawl

The fine art of playing Santa is a balance between Christmas spirit and BAC.

The fine art of playing Santa is a balance between Christmas spirit and BAC.

Photo By David Robert

It wouldn’t be all that surprising to find out that Santa Claus is a drinker—all that existential angst he’s got to work through every year, millions of people questioning his very existence; kids, slowly tugging on his beard asking him if he’s real. It can’t be easy. Plus, with growing childhood obesity taking its toll on the poor fella’s lap, that sixer of Thunderbird must look pretty appealing to old St. Nick at the end of a hard day at the mall. And all those “helpers” Santa has—they’re probably more like “enablers” than anything else.

Tommy Keefhaver, co-organizer of the Reno Santa Crawl, says he expects between 500 to 1,000 crunked-out Kris Kringles and booze enthusiasts to turn out on Dec. 15 for the 7th annual hooch fest/holiday performance art piece.

That’s right, kids. Santa Claus is coming to town. And he’s gonna get shitfaced.

Fat Santas, skinny Santas, hooker Santas, black Santas, amputee Santas … all are welcome at the 25-stop marathon, says Keefhaver, as long as they dress up as something Christmas-y, even, according to Keefhaver, as “Mr. Hankey, the Christmas Poo” from South Park.

“The point is to have fun, possibly make an ass of yourself and to make the holidays a great time,” he says.

Those not especially desirous of dressing up like a cartoon piece of shit, a link to a Santa suit supplier offers costumes in velour, polyester, flannel, and can run from “the economy” package, which provides the wearer with a modest iteration of Saint Nick and minimal warmth for as low as $20, to “the Pro Santa,” an all-inclusive $300 suit trimmed with arctic white faux rabbit fur, a black naugahyde belt with reinforced brass grommets and a silk-lined sack, warm enough to wrestle a reindeer in an icy pool … not as though that … type … of … thing … has … ever … happened … on … a … Santa Crawl.

A deluxe Rasputin-style Santa beard will set you back $119, while a tube of eyebrow whitener can be had for under $3.

It was 2001 when Matt Goedert, a tax attorney in the Bay Area and friend of Keefhaver’s, decided to blow off some stress and steam with the advent of the pass-out and puke parade.

“He said he was going to grab a few Santa suits and come up to Reno,” says Keefhaver.

He did. The rest is history, as foggy to some yearly participants as that storied Christmas Eve when Santa first flew by the light of Rudolph’s shiny red nose.

And since that first year, the holiday booze-guzzle has achieved the critical X-mas needed to propel itself.

But all those pitchers of holiday spirits are drunk for a good cause: While bellying up to the bar is free to drinkers (not the drinks, Scrooge), organizers expect to bring in up to $5,000 in donations to the Food Bank of Northern Nevada.

Bars trade generous donations to the food bank in exchange for having their establishement included on the official Santa Crawl route.

“We don’t charge any of the Santas because, frankly, we don’t want to be responsible for anything they do,” says Keefhaver. Meaning rogue Santas are exclusively responsible for any damage caused by carrier landings they pull on local bar tops.

Keefhaver says last year there was only minor trouble and only two Santas ended up in the Washoe County Jail instead of back up at the North Pole, which, considering all the variables and booze, seems a pretty reasonable number.

Because of the large turnout expected, his year’s Crawl will begin around 7:30 at two different locations: Club Underground and The Imperial Lounge.

Santas are encouraged to spend no more than half an hour per pub, and those left standing after the grueling marathon will wrap things up singing Christmas carols under the Reno Arch.

Of course, there’s no such thing as last call in Nevada, only bad endings.

“We’ve had straggler Santas still going the next morning at 10 a.m.,” says Keefhaver.