Santa will march drunkenly through downtown Fort Lauderdale Saturday night. Hundreds of doppelgangers will join him, as will partiers wearing elf costumes, reindeer antlers and anything else remotely related to St. Nick.
The occasion is Fort Lauderdale's SantaCon, which since about 2008 has been organized — if this Santa-parade-turned-bar-crawl can be considered "organized" — by three South Florida women. Keegan Hitchcock, a local makeup artist and body painter, is one of them. She says she first witnessed SantaCon in New York, though the tradition started in San Francisco. It's since gone international, with cities around the world rallying people to dress like Santa and storm the streets, giving out trinkets, candy and coal.
"One of them handed me an envelope with an autographed picture of [the 'Burn Notice' actor] Bruce Campbell," Hitchcock says of the New York event. "Me and my friend walked into a store, and when we came out, all of a sudden there were all these Santas on the street."
Her friend's gift was a Manila envelope with cutouts of lewd images glued to popsicle sticks on strings. It was an invite to a lesbian marionette theater, Hitchcock says.
She's reluctant to describe herself as a SantaCon organizer, but she and friends Liz Blake and Daniella Bagdadi invest plenty of time setting up the event.
"It's about having fun," Hitchcock says. "It's weird. It's one of the last things that sort of just happen. It's not like there are people in charge."
But there is what she calls "Papa Santa," a sort-of-official website denoting the "Four F---- of SantaCon." Along with tenets such as "Santa does not f--- with police," Hitchcock says, "Santa doesn't talk to the press. Part of it is the mystery."
Although there is something unexpected about the mass Santa gathering, Blake and Bagdadi set up a rehearsal earlier this week for the first SantaCon flash mob, complete with a dance-tutorial video.
At about 10 p.m., after walking from Huizenga Plaza to Mango's on Las Olas Boulevard and back west toward the Green Room in Himmarshee, the Santas will break into dance. By that time, the two-for-one drink specials — three-for-one at Capone's — at bars along the route should have taken their effect.
"Some people take it as a bar crawl," Hitchcock says. "But we try to get away from that. It's about being weird."