A Santa dressed as the Grinch who (almost) stole Christmas. Two guys dressed in suits with suspenders carrying a box a la Justin Timberlake and Andy Samberg. A man wearing only a Santa hat, beard, red barrel and his own holiday spirit.
Those unfamiliar with Saturday’s fifth annual “Running of the Santas” could be forgiven for thinking it’s more like a “Running of the Bros,” but it’s instructive to know that women get just as imaginative as the men in an event that has grown from 500 its first year to about 2,500 in 2014. Last year’s winner of the costume contest, for example, was decked out as a “Snow Queen” (think Elsa from “Frozen”) although there will be the occasional woman dressed as a present with the message “Unwrap at Christmas.”
“Oh, they get creative,” said event organizer Bob Dauterive, aka “The Mayor of the North Pole,” who was inspired by a similar event in Philadelphia that started up in 1998 — along with a New Orleans passion for costuming that can trace its roots to Mardi Gras balls but includes such contemporary phenomena as the Running of the Bulls, the Red Dress Run and, well, the seeming entire last week of October.
“I don’t know if it’s in the water here, our food, our culture, or whatever, but people love to dress up,” Dauterive said.
You can’t miss the Mayor: “I go in a white tuxedo with a red shirt and a candy-cane-stripe tie, white fedora with a candy cane band and walk and with a candy cane walking stick,” Dauterive said. “It’s become very recognizable over the past four years.”
Saturday’s event, which could draw as many as 3,000, originates at the Rusty Nail, aka “South Pole,” at 5:45 p.m. and breaks into a “fun run” of four whole city blocks over to Generations Hall (“North Pole”) for live music featuring Category 6 and Flow Tribe, starting at 6 p.m. (Flow Tribe also performed at the Baton Rouge incarnation of the Running of the Santas, also organized by Dauterive, on Dec. 5.) Dauterive notes that the event doesn’t work like a pub crawl, in which participants hop from bar to bar on a proscribed route. In this event, participants gather as early as noon but usually show up at the Rusty Nail around 2 p.m. for a block party and entertainment by DJ Scott Satchfield, make a break for Generations Hall a few hours later and have a big party (and costume contest) until 2 a.m.
“Some of ’em are a little slow finding the starting line, but it’s all in fun,” Dauterive said. “We make sure that everyone is under control.”
Two dollars from each $20 advance-purchased ticket is donated to That Others May Live, which aids families of United States Air Force rescue personnel killed or severely wounded in the line of work.
“This charity is very close to me,” said Dauterive, whose son-in-law is a brigadier general in the Air Force.