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SantaCon still on despite City Hall crackdown

Organizers predict “people will simply get together” no matter what

Hundreds of people in Santa suits in Union Square.
SantaCon 2017.
Photo by Eddie Hernandez Photography/Shutterstock

Despite speculation, it appears that San Francisco City Hall has not quite managed to sleigh SantaCon, San Francisco’s annual rowdy helping of holiday spirit in the form of thousands of red-suited revelers.

But it’s still not clear precisely how much holiday cheer is on tap.

Last week, SantaCon SF organizer Tom DiBell announced that San Francisco Recreation and Parks had denied his applications for permits for the planned December 8 gathering in Union Square.

Recreation and Parks told Curbed SF they had indeed “received a permit request for amplified sound in order to hold a costume contest and other contests for an estimated 17,000 Santas.”

The city said no.

However, Recreation and Parks spokesperson Tamara Aparton added that SantaCon had never received (or applied for) permits any previous year, either.

And despite the ostensible cancellation, SantaConquesters have still planned events on the SantaCon SF Facebook group.

So, is this thing happening or not? The admin for the main SantaCon page (who asked to be cited as simply “Santa Ian”), tells Curbed SF, “SantaCon SF is ‘on’ only in the sense that any similar event is on.”

“The organizers have stepped down,” explains Ian. But he anticipates that Santas will assemble regardless permit. “People will simply get together dressed like Santa, and hopefully still at least contribute a toy” to the planned toy drive.

Ian speculates that DiBell may attend in order to collect the toys but not to act as a host or attempt to run the previously planned contests.

SantaCon 2013.
Photo by DreamArt123

The San Francisco Chronicle—which dubbed SantaCon “17,000 drunk Santas” thanks to the annual event’s reputation for eggnog abuse—quotes Aparton saying, “We’re not going to be tackling Santas and making them stay away.”

At the same time Aparton warns, “If they come to Union Square and turn on some amplified sound, we’ll ask them to shut it down.”

For the record, SantaCon organizers specifically tell participants not to drink or be drunk during the festivities. Opinions remain polarized about the efficacy of this message.

In any case, it appears that DiBell is already making plans for next Christmas, telling Facebook followers:

Next year is the 25th Anniversary of the very first SantaCon to be held right here in San Francisco! I’m sure we all want that event to be a total blowout and waaay over the top.

[...] Permits cost, they’re going to require that in order to do a 25th Anniversary event the right way. In order to get the City on our side someone in government needs to get on our side. Who should that be? How do we get to them?

It seems SantaCon is coming to town after all. Put that on your naughty or nice list as you see fit.