There will be hundreds of Santa Clauses coming to town this weekend to roam the streets of State College. The tenth-annual Santa Crawl, State College's biggest Christmas-themed bar tour, will be this Saturday from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m.
Even before organizing the Crawl each year, Larry Fall always loved celebrating Christmas. He would dress up in a Santa suit around the holidays while out at downtown bars and hand out hundreds of stuffed animals he purchased at the dollar store. He soon realized the costume and presents brought a lot of smiles to those in his community.
One of his friends contacted him in 2004 to tell him about a bar tour in D.C. where people dressed up as Santa Claus. Fall said he thought it seemed like a fun idea, so he and a group of friends decided to turn his stuffed animal giveaway into a bar tour. As they traveled around State College with his group of five, they kept running into people who said they wished they had known about the bar tour sooner so they could have joined in on the fun. That led to a group of about 15, including several Mrs. Clauses, for the second year.
From there, it just grew. Last year, about 400 participated in the Santa Crawl, and Fall is expecting an even larger turnout this time. Fall said he has participated year after year because it continues to bring joy to the community.
"I really enjoy being with people who are having fun – and this bunch is certainly doing that. The group just has an energy of its own and everyone in it is swept up by the holiday spirit," Fall said. "Plus, we put smiles on the faces of everyone in the bars when we show up. I think that's one of the reasons that the local bars have supported us. The whole bar environment seems to be energized while we are there."
After paying a $10 voluntary donation, Crawlers receive a wristband at the first bar they attend. The participating bars have agreed to waive cover charges for any Crawler wearing one of the wristbands. Some, such as Rotelli and The Tavern, will give out free food for those with wristbands. Those who do not purchase the wristbands can still participate but may have to pay a cover charge.
All of the funds raised by selling the wristbands will be donated to charity. The money will be donated to the Pat Boland Memorial Internship Award, a scholarship fund organized by the College of Communications in honor of Boland, a local broadcaster who died of cancer a few years ago. Thus far, $5,775 has been raised for the fund from the Santa Crawl.
Fall said there is no sign-up for the event, advising anyone older than 21 to simply arrive in costume at 8 p.m. at either Kildare's or Cafe 210.
"Penn State and this community have taken a lot of heat for the State Patty's Day event," Fall said. "I believe that the Santa Crawl can demonstrate, by example, that it is possible for a large group of adults to hold a downtown event with alcohol involved that doesn't automatically degenerate into chaotic irresponsibly behavior."
The complete (and flexible) bar tour schedule is below:
8 p.m.: Kildare's or Cafe 210
9 p.m.: Lion's Den, G-Man, Bar Bleu, or Indigo
10 p.m.: Rotelli, The Tavern, The Brewery, Shandygaff, Zeno's, Bill Pickle's Tap Room, or Allen Street Grill
11 p.m.: The Rathskellar, The Darkhorse Tavern, Mad Mex, Phyrst, or Local Whiskey
12 p.m. – 2 a.m.: Any and all of the above.