Santa Claus is coming to town — and he’s thirsty

On Dec. 18, the Riverdale, Kingsbridge and Van Cortlandt neighborhoods of the Bronx will be launching their very own SantaFest.
Photo ET Rodriguez

It’s that time of year again when offices have their year-end parties, holiday songs blare over the speakers of every department store, retail shopping is at its peak, and of course – Santa Claus. And while many may leave out milk and cookies for jolly old Saint Nick, this weekend, Santa will be looking for thirst-quenching of the alcoholic variety.

On Dec. 18, the Riverdale, Kingsbridge and Van Cortlandt neighborhoods of the Bronx will be launching their very own SantaFest. Modeled after the infamous SantaCon seen locally in New York City, SantaFest will take place on Sunday from 2-8 p.m. where patrons are encouraged to dress in their loudest holiday garb and partake in the food and drink specials featured at more than 20 locations, which can be found on the “dineoutriverdale” Instagram page.

The flyer promoting the first SantaFest in the North Bronx. Flyer courtesy Flexis Media

Founded in California in 1994, SantaCon charges partygoers a small fee to participate in a bar crawl which is then donated to several charities. But over the years, the event has seen more belligerence and debauchery than warmth and generosity. “Cancel SantaCon” flyers were posted on mailboxes throughout Midtown in anticipation of this year’s event due to a history of lewd behavior and over-intoxication. But Laura Levine-Pinedo, who has been the manager of the Bronx Burger House for seven years and who is heavily involved in the community, co-founded SantaFest along with Mike Gabert and trusts that the experience will be nothing like what Midtown sees.

“We do not condone overconsumption of alcohol and we trust that people will enjoy responsibly,” she told the Bronx Times. “We’re marketing it a little differently – it’s just festive and an opportunity to go out to your favorite places and get in the holiday spirit.”

Restaurants and bars pay $25 to participate and profits will be given to the Friendly Fridge Foundation — a communal refrigerator located on Broadway near 242nd Street. The Friendly Fridge Foundation was created in 2020 to provide food security during the pandemic and will be distributing food on Christmas.

On Dec. 10, bar-crawlers flock in Manhattan to celebrate the annual SantaCon festivities. The North Bronx is planning its own version of SantaCon this weekend, although event organizers assure their participants will be better behaved. Photo ET Rodriguez

Bar-crawlers are also asked to bring an unopened toy, if possible. Each bar and restaurant will have a box collecting donations for the Kingsbridge Heights Community Center’s (KHCC) Winter Drive.

KHCC has been serving the community since 1974 through early childhood services, sexual abuse counseling for teens, and nutrition and food access, to name a few. KHCC started their winter drive a little more than 20 years ago, and in addition to toys, they also provide coats, gift cards, non-perishable food items and baby supplies, which will be distributed at the center on Dec. 21.

“This year we’re finding that the need is greater than ever,” said Ansley Ward Davenport, KHCC’s director of development, citing the high prices of groceries and everyday goods. “It’s a really inspiring time, even though people in the borough are struggling, there is also this sense of resilience and community that I think is really special.”

This story was updated at 11 a.m. on Dec. 14.

Reach ET Rodriguez at [email protected]. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes

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