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Despite semi-cancelation, SantaCon SF draws crowd

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City Hall disapproval may have depressed turnout this year, but organizers say SantaCon must go on

Men in Santa suits hanging out of a Cable Car. Photo by JudeAnd

Despite drama about whether or not San Francisco had canceled the annual SantaCon revel—or if such a thing was even possible—the red-suited romp drew thousands to the city on Saturday, albeit with a noticeably depressed turnout compared to last year.

SantaCon SF organizer Tom DiBell noted on Facebook that the estimated crowd size this year was between 10,000 and 12,000—well short of last year’s roughly 17,000 attendees, but still pretty hefty for an event that weeks prior looked like it might not happen at all.

The San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department declined DiBell’s attempts to obtain permits for this year’s SantaCon, the first time the event made a bid at permitting, according to Recreation and Parks spokesperson Tamara Aparton.

This led to some confusion over whether or not the event could happen. But an organizer for the larger SantaCon site—which helps coordinate dozens of SantaCons from Los Angeles to Hanoi—told Curbed SF that people would probably show up for the December 8 Santa soiree no matter what.

Which is precisely what happened.

DiBell said on Facebook that the only real problem with this year’s SantaCon—other than some Santas imbibing too much Christmas cheer before, during, and after—was a crashed drone falling from the sky.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that there were no arrests connected to Saturday’s SantaCon, though the gathering began earlier than previous years—as did the day drinking.

A slightly smaller 2018 SantaCon crowd (left).
Photo by JudeAnd

And while the SantaCon site advised revelers not to drink during the festivities, few people abided by that teetotaling guideline.

“I am a kind of an ‘organizer,’ [but] only in the broadest sense,” DiBell told Curbed SF in an emailed statement.

“Can you herd cats? That’s what it’s like,” he said of trying to set parameters for the yearly pre-Christmas bash, which began in 1994 with just a few downtown partygoers in Santa suits and has since grown to span the globe.

“Next year is the 25th Anniversary of SantaCon,” added DiBell. “The event was born here in San Francisco by a bunch of crazies. [...] We just want to have a little fun. Is that too much to ask?”

Evidently not.

DiBell said that plans are already in place for next year’s silver anniversary SantaCon, which is set for December 7, 2019.

Mark your calendars—or make plans to be out of town—accordingly, depending on your inclination.