Jolly Joggers

Here comes Santa Claus, and he’s thirsty

Dressed in red and green, with white beards flying and drinks in hand, hundreds of St. Nick-alikes will trot, gallop and perhaps stumble through the city’s historic Warehouse District Saturday, Dec. 15, from noon to midnight.

Organizers of the “Running of the Santas” are predicting that almost 2,000 revelers will don Christmas costumes, both naughty and nice, for this year’s event.

“This festival contains the holy trinity for New Orleans,” said organizer Bob Dautrieve. “People in this city love music, booze and dressing up in costumes. Look how they enjoy doing it for Mardi Gras, Halloween and the Red Dress Run.”

Contestants for the “Cutest Mrs. Santa Claus” are likely to attend dressed in very little red and white -- especially if the weather is balmy.

In Atlantic City, Hooters calendar girls and characters from the casinos competed against one another in distinctly un-matronly fashion, dressed in Playboy-style attire.

In the Hottest Santa Contest, open both to males and females, dancers from the male revue “Savage Men” led the race dressed in show costumes consisting of a well-placed g-string.

Although the New Orleans festival is more of a parade than a race, there are prizes awarded for winning runners.

The Running of the Santas started in Philadelphia 13 years ago and is now held in 22 cities across the country.

“My two buddies, Matthew McDermott and Ryan Van Laeys, who parade with me every Mardi Gras in Pete Fountain’s Half Fast Walking Club, kept asking me to run the one in Philadelphia,” said Dautrieve, “and when I finally did it, I kept thinking: ‘This could work in New Orleans, that could work in New Orleans.’’

The three friends organized the festival and run, which attracted more than 1,000 participants dressed in full Santa Claus costumes last year.

“It took Philadelphia a full five years before they reached 500 participants,” said Dautrieve, “and we doubled that in just the first year.”

Philadelphia’s festival has since taken off, attracting 6,000 runners in 27-degree weather this year, he noted.

A portion of the proceeds will benefit “That Others May Live Foundation,” a non-profit established in 2002 to provide scholarships, family counseling, and aid to surviving children of United States Air Force Rescue Heroes.

This year’s day-long New Orleans festival begins at noon at several Warehouse District bars with drink specials. “That’s where you can do your warm-up drinking,” Dautrieve said.

The action moves at 3 p.m. to the “South Pole,” Lucy’s Surfer Bar, 701 Tchoupitoulas St., followed by a fun run at 6 p.m. from Lucy’s to the “North Pole” set up at Generations Hall, 310 Andrew Higgins Drive.

Category 6, a national rock band, will provide entertainment until midnight.

Since Running of the Santas is now a trademarked race, it has already taken place in a couple of its sister cities this year.

In Atlantic City, more than 7,000 revelers showed up dressed more or less in some semblance of a Santa suit, said Matthew McDermott, one of the organizers of the Atlantic City and Philadelphia runs who also has a hand in staging the New Orleans festival.

“There’s one guy that shows up dressed in plain clothes -- and brings a Christmas tree,” he said.