Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Santas train for their big night

Santa is well known for his girth, yet somehow manages to circumnavigate the globe without fail every year. Come Saturday, around 4,000 Santa look-alikes will dash from South Pole to North Pole in New Orleans’ Warehouse District, a distance of just seven city blocks, celebrating the holidays in a fun-loving, red-suited way.
“We take into consideration that Santa can’t run that far,” said Bob A. Dauterive, Sr. who, as the event producer as well as mayor of the North Pole, will officiate in white tuxedo, candy cane striped tie and white fedora hat.
The third annual Running of the Santas is more like a costume and drinking party than an athletic event, he said. The 18-hour party basically moves from one location to another at 5 p.m. and revelers follow.
 “It’s more of a stumble-saunter with cocktail in hand,” joked Kelly Mitchell. Last year, she dressed as a Mardi Gras Mrs. Claus, wearing a red corset, red and white striped tutu and lace-up patent leather boots.
Running of the Santas festivities start at 11 a.m. at Barcadia Bar and Grill, 601 Tchoupitoulas Street, with deejay Ronnie Roux, followed by Funk Monkey and Flow Tribe.
Corey B and Jammer (B-96) will be masters of ceremonies at the 4 p.m. costume contest, sponsored by Saks, when media celebrity judges select the Cutest Santa and overall Best Holiday Costume. Judges include Bruce Katz (WVUE-TV meteorologist), Scott Satchfield (FOX-8 reporter), Garland Gillen (FOX-8 sports reporter) and Sean Fazende (FOX-8 sports reporter), Camille Whitworth (WDSU co-anchor) and Travers Mackel (WDSU reporter), Curt Sprang (WGNO anchor), Kelder Summers  (Old School 106.7) and Scoot (WWL-AM/FM). Last year, costumes ranged from Santa’s elves, grinches and reindeer to a snowflake and Christmas tree with blinking lights. The cutest costume winner was a sexy polar bear wearing furry boots and hat and not much else, Mitchell said.
The fun run to Generations Hall, 310 Andrew Higgens Drive, will begin promptly at 5 p.m. Naughty Professor will rock at 5:30 p.m. until Category 6 takes over at 7 p.m. The party will continue until early morning.
Dauterive spent 40 years in the airfreight industry working with trade shows and conventions before launching Running of the Santas. Through that, he met Matt McDermott and Ryan Van Laeys who got started running through the streets of Philadelphia in 1998 with a group of friends and organized the first Running of the Santas. Now there are 26 similar events. They wanted Dauterive to bring it to New Orleans.
“I’m not a runner. I haven’t run since high school track with NORD,” Dauterive said. But as one of the founders of the Greater New Orleans Athletic League, he knew how to organize an event.
It took about 10 years for the Philadelphia event to draw 1,000 participants, perhaps because Pennsylvania’s December weather is daunting, but the New Orleans event quickly reached that level. New Orleanians easily adapted to the costume idea.
“It’s New Orleans – it’s what we do here,” Mitchell laughed.
Two dollars of every ticket price goes to That Others May Life Foundation, which provides critical support, scholarships and immediate tragedy assistance for the families of United States Air Force Rescue Heroes who are killed or severely wounded in operational or training missions. After Hurricane Katrina, USAF Rescue lifted victims off rooftops, Dauterive said.
“During the days following the devastating storm, airmen from the 347 Expeditionary Rescue Group were credited with saving 4,306 American lives in the Gulf Coast region,” said Jim McElhenney, the foundation’s executive director.

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