Prepare for thousands of Santa look-alikes, elves and reindeer to descend upon downtown, carrying unwrapped toys in one hand, and a festive beverage in the other. This Saturday, December 3rd will mark the 12th anniversary of Memphis' largest pub crawl, the Stumbling Santa.
The pub crawl starts at 7pm at the Flying Saucer, and proceeds to a different, undisclosed location every hour, on the hour. The thousands of participants dress as their favorite holiday characters, and bring unwrapped gifts donated to Porter-Leath. Last year, the event collected over 6,000 toys for Porter-Leath children.
The Stumbling Santa event started thanks to Bob Burdett and Roland Shapley. It started in an apartment with 20 or so people "looking to spread cheer and run around in Santa costumes," says Burditt.
"We thought it would be hysterical. I think it was our second year or so when we thought it would be good to do something charitable with all of this." They found the perfect match in Porter-Leath, who needed toys at Christmas.
The participation basically doubled each year to more than ~3,000 attendees now. "It was quite amazing how fast it grew," says Burditt. "In the beginning, we started at Ernestine's and rode the trollies to the Flying Saucer. That was the fun part about a small group is that we were nimble and could go wherever we wanted to. Eventually, it became too large to manage and only a small number of venues could hold us."
He recalls one of the years walking through the Peabody mall and the hotel lobby. "Everyone was sort of in shock back then to see about 200 Santas marching through the mall together. The security guards at the mall weren't happy that we showed up and started to keep us out but there were too many of us."
Advise for newcomers from Stumbling Santa organizer Kirk Caliendo is "Pay as you go at the pubs. Starting and closing tabs in a crowd of thousands gets cumbersome at all locations."
To celebrate the 12th year of the event, they will be tenting the street on Second and Peabody place. DJ Superman will be hosting a pre- and post-party. They are also giving away two bikes and a canoe this year to pub crawl finishers at the end of the event in front of the Flying Saucer.
So come to the Flying Saucer at 7pm this Saturday, Dec 3rd dressed as Santa or a North Pole helper. There is no cost to participate, but please bring a new, unwrapped toy to donate to Porter-Leath (or make a $20 donation).
Porter-Leath has an overwhelming need for Preschooler toys (ages 3-5) and for infants (birth to age 2). No toy weapons, items with small parts, stuffed animals (unless they're bagged/sealed). If you need ideas, check out this "Toy Ideas" page- http://www.porterleath.org/toy-truck-toy-ideas
See you there!