Nerd Culture

Santarchy 2016: A Field Guide to Saturday's Event in Scottsdale

As you might expect, Santa Claus is sort of everywhere this time of year. He’s hanging out at practically every single shopping mall around town, not to mention a car show or two, several local holiday events, and even riding a Harley.

The biggest concentration of Kris Kringles in the entire Valley, however, can arguably be found massing in downtown Scottsdale this weekend during the annual Santarchy bar crawl. And they’ll be in a mood to party.

An army of Santa Claus clones and other costumed characters will invade the city’s entertainment and nightlife district during one of the holiday season’s biggest and most unusual events. The off-kilter Yuletide bar crawl, which attracts thousands of participants each year and has been put on by the Arizona Cacophony Society, is inspired by the holidays and typically involves hitting up multiple Scottsdale bars while in costume.

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 helps 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.

“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.

Interested in joining in the fun? Here’s a rundown of everything you need to know before you ho-ho-ho.

Time and Date: Santarchy 2016 kicks off at 6 p.m. on Saturday, December 17, in Scottsdale.

Location: As in previous years, the crawl will start out along Craftsman Court before moving east into Scottsdale’s entertainment district. According to Santarchy organizers, the first two stops will be at Old Town Gringos, 4209 North Craftsman Court, and Rockbar, 4245 North Craftsman Court. From there it's on to spots like Pattie’s First Avenue Lounge, Giligin’s, Goodwood, Boondocks, Social Tap, and elsewhere. The final stop will be at Wasted Grain. The full scheduled can be found below or on Santarchy's Facebook event page.

Prices: It's free to participate in the crawl itself, and none of the stops will charge a cover. You’ll have to cough up the cash for your own drinks, however. That said, drink specials will be available at each stop.

Age Limits: If you’re under 21, you’re outta luck, since Santarchy is a bar crawl aimed at those of legal drinking age only.

Weather: Yes, it’s actually going to be chilly outside this weekend, bordering on freezing after dark. Temperatures will be around 53 degrees at the start of the event before dropping to the low 40s by last call. In other words, make sure your costume has plenty of layers.

Parking: The good news is that most of the parking in downtown Scottsdale is free, if you can find a spot. Get there early enough and you can snag a spot in the Craftsman Court parking structure or in one of the many street spaces nearby. If it’s later, try parking a few blocks away and hail a golf cart.

Getting Around: If you’d like to rest your feet between stops, consider hopping aboard one of the many golf carts or pedicabs that work the bar district on weekends. All of 'em work off tips, which range from $5 to $20 depending on the amount of people in your group and the particular distance you're going. Some will also be able to take plastic. YMMV.

Entertainment: Besides the nonstop cavalcade of costumed characters offering plenty of people-watching, a few of the bars along the way (such as Wasted Grain) will feature live music and DJs.

Food and Drink: Each stop will have a surfeit of libations on tap, as well as specific drink specials. As for food, that depends. Some spots (such as Old Town Gringos, Giligin’s, Kelly’s, Social Tap, Wasted Grain and Boondocks) will offer full menus, while others (Pattie’s, Goodwood, Rockbar) offer nothing but drinks.

What to Wear: Simply put, any sort of costumes related to the holidays is encouraged, be it something inspired by Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, 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. The more you put into your outfit, the more people will interact with you, and it's a nice way to make new friends."

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.

Bring: A new, unwrapped toy to be donated, for starters, which will be collected at the first two stops and donated to underprivileged children in the Valley by local do-gooder Robert “Santa Bob” Grinnell. You’ll also want to have some cash handy as well as your ID. Oh yeah, and you'll want to be in costume, since it's mandatory to participate. Speaking of which...

Don't Bring: Just an ordinary holiday sweater, ugly or otherwise, or one of those red Santa hats. You can be more creative than that. Seriously.

Schedule: This year’s crawl will hit more than a dozen different bars and will (more or less) end at Wasted Grain. Several of the stops will be at multiple spots at once to accomadate the sheer amount of people. Here’s the official rundown of where everyone will be and when:

6 p.m. to 8 p.m.: Old Town Gringos and Rockbar
8 p.m. to 9 p.m.: Pattie’s First Avenue Lounge, Old Town Tavern, Kelly’s, Two Brothers Tap House, Montauk, and Diego Pops
9 p.m. to 10 p.m.: Giligns, Boondocks, Goodwood, and DJs
10 p.m. onward: INTL and Wasted Grain

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.

In other words, keep it fun and avoid turning the Valley's version of Santarchy into an enormous shit-show like it is in New York City.
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Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.