Santarchy 2015: A Field Guide to Saturday's Event in Scottsdale

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Everyone needs to let loose and tie one on once in awhile, especially Santa Claus. Given the enormous stress that comes with the weighty responsibility of delivering countless gifts to billions of children worldwide during a single evening, we’d expect that Jolly Ol’ Saint Nick really needs to go hard with a major rager.

Such a situation will develop this weekend in Scottsdale when Kris Kringle and more than a thousand of his friends participate in Santarchy, the enormous holiday-themed bar crawl that will fill the city’s entertainment district and its bars with hundreds of costumed characters on Saturday, December 12.

The event is put on annually by the urban pranksters of the Arizona Cacophony Society and involves an evening long jaunt between more than a dozen different Scottsdale bars. And many of the people participating are wearing costumes, ranging from Santa suits and elf get-ups to pretty much anything and everything inspired by the holidays.

It’s a little bit kooky, creative, and chaotic, not to mention a whole lot of fun.

According to Arizona Cacophony member Christopher Lykins, who organizes the event, it’s unlike any other bar crawl or costume-related event that takes place each year, partly due to the ginormous turnout of more than 1,200 people that participate.

“I think everyone likes to be a little bit mischievous and it’s the best people watching you're going to see. Unlike most Halloween events, where everyone's dressed somewhat differently, you just see this sea of red when you walk into a bar. It's really a neat thing to see,” Lykins says. “It's really fun, it's a big social event, and it's a chance for people to dress up and blow off a little more steam than at more traditional holiday events like the usual office parties or family events.”

Santarchy events, which also take place in cities worldwide during the holiday season and have happened in the Valley since 2007, are as much about social interaction and having a good time as they are dressing up and tying one on.

“There's kind of this breakdown of social strata that takes place at a Santarchy where you see attorneys hanging out with street performers or tech guys or whatever,” Lykins says. “It’s this international event that's fun to be a part of and it’s not difficult to be a part of at all.”

Costumes are pretty much mandatory to participate in Santarchy, which Lykins stresses should be more than just a festive hat or ugly sweater. That said, you don’t necessarily need to dress like Santa or any of his retinue. You could go as Ralphie from A Christmas Story, a character from The Nightmare Before Christmas, the Grinch, or pretty much anything in the spirit of the season. You might even encounter a Krampus or two.

“I have a feeling they'll be a lot of Krampuses running around this year,” Lykins says.

Santarchy is not only an excuse to play Bad Santa for a night, it's also a charitable event. While it’s free to participate, organizers heavily encourage participants to bring a new toy to the event, which will be donated to local children in need.

“In an event that's actually free,” he says, “It's nice to be able to give a little bit back.”

There are a few other things to keep in mind before you head out to Scottsdale on Saturday night to join in the fun, all of which we’ve compiled in the following guide to the event.

Time and Date: This year’s edition of Santarchy will kick off at 6 p.m. on Saturday, December 12, in Scottsdale.

Location: Participants will initially gather at Rockbar, 4245 North Craftsman Court, to “warm up” with a couple of rounds before beginning the crawl and heading to nearby bars. A complete list of stops can be found below or on the official Phoenix Santarchy event page on Facebook.

Price: There’s no cost involved with participating in Santarchy, save for paying for your drinks, as none of the bars involved won’t charge a cover.

Age Limits: Given that the M.O. of Santarchy involves visiting bars after nightfall and attempting to drink ‘em dry, the event is understandably for the 21-and-over crowd only.

Weather: It’s going to pretty darn cold outside on Saturday night, as the forecast calls for temperatures around 56 degrees at the start of the evening before getting down to the mid-40s by midnight. Better add some extra padding to your Santa suit.

Parking: Finding a place to stash your car in Scottsdale on a weekend night is often a tricky proposition and spots tend to become scarcer the closer you get to the entertainment district. If you’re planning to be there early in the evening, hit up the four-story Craftsman Court parking structure behind Rockbar or grab some street parking nearby. If it's later, consider parking a short distance away from the hubbub and grab either a pedicab or golf cart to get you where you need to be. Speaking of which…

Getting Around: After spending the evening walking to and from various bars, we’re willing to bet you might get a bit tired. If you’d like to rest your feet between stops, consider hailing one of the many golf carts or pedicabs that work the district on weekends. Pretty much all of ‘em work off tips, which ranges from $10 to $20 depending on the distance you're going.

Entertainment: While its safe to say that Santarchy will offer non-stop entertainment with its non-stop parade of colorful characters and their antics, the event will also feature a few additional performances and distractions. “We're trying to do a lot of entertainment this year,” Lykins says. For instance, local rockabilly band The Hardways will perform during the warm up and gathering at Rockbar, while The Grapevine will feature karaoke, and fire-wielding troupe Mourning Fyre will offer up a performance art piece entitled “Naughty Children Never Win” at Maya Day and Nightclub.

Food and Drink: Each of the stops during the event are guaranteed to have libations aplenty and a variety of drink specials. As for food, that will depend on the particular establishment. Some spots (such as El Hefe, Urbane Manner, Kelly’s, Boondocks, and Whiskey Row) will offer full menus while others (Pattie’s, INTL, Goodwood) will have small plates and snacks only. 

What to Wear: Simply put, any sort of costumes related to the holidays is encouraged, be it something inspired by Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanza, the Winter Solstice, or even Festivus. According to Lykins, creativity is most definitely encouraged. “People get really clever,” he says. “But anything you’d like to wear that belongs to Christmas or the holiday spirit is cool. There are elves and reindeer, abominable snowmen, Christmas trees, Hanukah Harry, and a little bit of everything else. I've seen Gumby Santa Claus and every single Rankin-Bass character known to man at Santarchy. The more you put into your outfit, the more people will interact with you and its a nice way to make new friends."

And, despite the fact the event’s in Scottsdale, you don’t have to go the sexy route if you’re female. “As can be expected in Old Town, there's going to be plenty of sexy Santas,” Lykins says. “But my favorite are the unsexy outfits. You don't have to look like a bombshell, you can be a complete disaster area and its equally funny. It's kind of cool that females can dress like Santa Claus or in the frumpiest outfit ever and there's no pressure to be sexy. You can wear whatever you like.”

If you'd like to find a Santa suit or other holiday-related costuming, retailers like Party City, Easley's, Mardi Gras in Scottsdale, and Groovy Ghoulies in Mesa will all meet your needs.

What to Bring: A new toy to be donated, for starters. Lykins stresses the fact that organizers would like to donate as many toys to underprivileged children as possible after the event. Other than that, it’s always good to bring cash in order to speed things up when getting your drink on. “Anything you can do to facilitate movement at a crowded bar would be appreciated and get you in and out of there quickly.”

Keep in Mind: Lykins also recommends participants be respectful of others during the event. “If someone wants you to move on because they don't like you singing Christmas carols in their face at one o'clock in the morning, move on. Don't start a brawl or get so drunk that you could wind up being arrested.” He also suggests that Santarchy revelers should be patient when dealing with the large crowds that will be present for the event. “Know how to deal with Scottsdale on a Saturday night,” he says.

After-Party: Following the finale at Maya, many participants will head for the Days Hotel, 5101 North Scottsdale Road, to recover, rehydrate, decompress, and check out photos and videos from Santarchy in the Saguaro Room starting at 1 a.m. Admission is free.

Schedule and Stops: More than a dozen different spots throughout Scottsdale’s entertainment district will be visited by Santarchy participants during the six-hour event, some of which will feature entertainment along the way (including a gig by rockabilly band The Hardways at Rockbar or karaoke at The Grapevine). Here’s a rundown of where people will be and when…

6 to 7 p.m.: Gathering and “warm up” at Rockbar
7 to 8 p.m.: Rockbar, BS West, and Kelly’s at SouthBridge
8 to 9 p.m.: Pattie’s 1st Avenue Lounge, Grapevine, Boondocks, and Urbane Manner
9 to 10 p.m.: Goodwood Tavern and Holy Spirits
10 to 11 p.m.: El Hefe, Whiskey Row, and INTL
11 p.m. to midnight: Finale at Maya Day & Nightclub featuring aerialists and a performance by Mourning Fyre.

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