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Offbeat Santa Clauses celebrate downtown

Saturday, December 3, 2011 | 9:18 p.m. CST; updated 9:41 p.m. CST, Saturday, December 3, 2011
Lizzie Bryan selects a song on the juke box during Santacon on Saturday at McNally's Irish Pub and Grill. Bryan is the organizer of the event, a "non-profit, non-political, non-religious & non-sensical celebration of holiday cheer, goodwill, and fun," according to their Facebook page.

COLUMBIA — “A Santa hat is not enough.” Those were the rules posted on the SantaCon Facebook page.

The organizers suggested that participants dress as candy canes, reindeer or "Santasauruses."

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SantaCon, a worldwide event, welcomed any person who wanted to celebrate the holiday season to give misfit toys, sing songs and drink in costume. Saturday night marked the third year Columbia has held a SantaCon celebration.

Among about 35 people who showed up at McNally's for the first leg of the pub crawl on Saturday night were a tree-topper angel, a sexy disco Santa and a black-sequined ice queen.

Melissa Sharp, the angel, said she heard about SantaCon from a friend who went last year. She worked with what she had in her closet and made her halo out of tinsel and a hanger.

Lizzie Bryan, the organizer, wore red and white stripped tights, a red fur hat and a tree skirt. She said she began Columbia’s SantaCon event with fellow enthusiasts of Burning Man, a late summer festival in Nevada.

She said the event replicated a part of the Burning Man experience.

“Burning Man only happens once a year, so you have to find other ways to fulfill your need to costume,” Bryan said.

Participants at SantaCon handed out reassembled toys they had made the night before. Among other toys, they had made a Barbie body with a horse's head, a platter of My Little Pony heads and a stuffed monkey with its arms replaced by the heads of other stuffed animals.

To give to people less virtuous, SantaCon Santa Clauses also brought lumps of coal.

The event has grown in popularity each year. It started with 30 people in 2009 and doubled to 60 last year. This year, Bryan estimated 150 people would join in throughout the night, based on Facebook confirmations.

The pub crawl schedule, which included stops at Top 10 Wines, Sycamore, Tonic Back Alley Bar and RagTag, suggested alternate bars to spill into when the bars filled up.

“We have a bullhorn because that’s the only way to keep people herded,” Bryan said.

She blasted the horn to give the group a 10-minute warning for each move.

“As we travel, we kind of look like a spectacle,” she said.


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