Saucy Santas

Ten years of the Santa Pub Crawl

By Lauren Adams

Photo: The Santa Pub Crawl takes place Saturday, Dec. 12 in the Oregon District; photo: Geek with a Lens Photography

If you see hundreds of elves stumbling around the Oregon District on Saturday, Dec. 12, don’t be alarmed. It’s just Daytonians celebrating the holidays, and giving back to charity by participating in the annual Santa Pub Crawl. The event will run between local bars from 5 p.m.-12 a.m. The pub crawl partners with Toys for Tots, and gives the community the chance to patronize the Oregon District, win great prizes, celebrate the holidays and give back to charity.
Last year, there were 1,200 participants in the pub crawl.
“We’re hoping eventually the pub crawl is big enough that we can actually shut down the street,” says co-organizer Libby Ballengee.
It seems like the event is well on its way. The number of participants has grown exponentially since the crawl’s humble beginnings.
“It started 10 years ago,” says Brian Young, one of the founders of Dayton’s pub crawl. “A friend of mine was doing this in Denver and I think at the time, when I left we were up to 80 people doing it, and that was a big deal. It started off and … like three or four years in a row it was 20 people, then I think 30 people, then it was 80 people. When I moved to Dayton I thought ‘I don’t really know anybody here so I’m just going to try this.’ I knew a couple people, and I think there were four of us planning this pub crawl, the first pub crawl we had it was like 15 people walking down the street, and I’m thinking ‘Aw man, Denver had 80,’ and it was kind of sad but I thought ‘Oh I’m going to try again.’”
The second time turned out to be a charm for Young. In addition to doubling the original number, the group also ran into another pub crawl and the two decided to merge for the following year’s events. The group began by donating to the Montgomery County Children’s Services, and then switched to Toys for Tots. Once it established the partnership with Toys for Tots, participants donated toys in exchange for entry to Oregon District bars and a chance to win money and prizes. As the years went on, the prizes got bigger, the participant list grew, and last year Toys for Tots received 1,200 toys for the holidays.
“People like to feel good about going out and drinking,” says Young; and what better way than to win prizes and help collect toys for Christmas.
In addition to the donations, prizes and drinking, the pub crawl is a time to indulge and dress up in your favorite holiday themed gear. While about half of people do dress in Santa garb, Young says other past ideas include holiday movie themes, elves on a shelf, penguins, Jesus, Christmas trees and three wise men.
This year, even if you’re unable to dress up and make it on Dec. 12, there are still a number of ways to give to the charity.
“If people for some reason can’t go but do want to participate in terms of donating the toys, we do have some collection boxes that are at various locations,” Ballengee says. “In the Oregon District the new store called Heart has a donation box, Archers in Centerville has a donation box … soon there will be one at Confetti, and Raise Your Brush in Centerville, so people can drop off toys even if they can’t for whatever reason make that date.”
This year, the event is sponsored by Budweiser, Epic Fitness, Foliohaus and Buckeye Vodka. After registration at the Dublin Pub and Oregon Express, the participating bars are Trolly Stop, Tumbleweed, Ned Peppers and Newcoms. The costume contest will be at 10 p.m. at Blind Bob’s, and then there will be an after party at Dublin Pub at midnight. There is no set schedule, so participants will get a punch card and wristband at registration, and they can visit different bars and win prizes and get drinks throughout the night. Also, to make sure everyone gets home safely, there are a block of group rooms at the Crowne Plaza, and first time riders will be able to get a free $20 Uber ride.
Young is astonished—and pleased—to see how far the crawl has come in 10 years. “I never thought [there would be so] much [participation],” he says. “I’m thinking ‘90 people, oh my God, that’s amazing,’ and six years later we’re going 1,200. I think it’s really cool that a lot of people have latched onto this.”
Each year more and more people join in on this charity pub crawl, and hopefully this year will be no different. Weather permitting, the children of Dayton will be able to have a happy Christmas, and participants will have a happy and safe pub crawl. This is the perfect way to support Toys for Tots, local bars throughout the Oregon District, and feel good about your holiday drinking.

The Santa Pub Crawl takes place Saturday, Dec. 12 in the Oregon District in downtown Dayton. Registration runs from 5-8:30 p.m. at the Dublin Pub and Oregon Express, and the costume contest is at 10 p.m. at Blind Bob’s. Cost of admission is $10 or a toy worth $10 to be donated to Toys for Tots. Entry fee includes drink specials, special contests and prizes. For more information, please visit any of the participating bars, or gemcitypodcast.com.

Reach DCP freelance writer Lauren Adams at LaurenAdams@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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Reach DCP freelance writer Lauren Adams at LaurenAdams@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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