Lots of Santa Clauses celebrate the holiday in Pittsburgh

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Santa Claus may be busy making lists and checking them twice, but on Saturday he definitely came to town: About 175 Santas in full regalia or without much regalia on at all, pub crawling through North Shore, Downtown and South Side for the ninth annual "Santarchy."

"I love making a fool out of myself," said Jon Erny, 25, of Brentwood, resplendent in neon green elf tights, elf shoes and jester's cap as he sipped a beer at the North Shore's Tilted Kilt.

"You gotta go elf or go home," added his friend Jenna Kukla, 24, of Baldwin, also in elf garb.

They, along with an assortment of Santas in drag, Robot Santas and even a few "Christmas Story" Ralphies in bunny suits, had braved a wintry mix of fat snowflakes, rain and wind to participate in Santarchy, which, according to its website is a "global phenomenon" that began in San Francisco in 1994.

New York's version, called SantaCon, attracts plenty of Santas and helpers, but is unpopular with residents who chafe at the crowds of drunken revelers.

In Pittsburgh, Santarchy began promptly at 2:30 p.m. at PNC Park's Willie Stargell statue, where Frank Haller, the events organizer, led a caroling session whose lyrics could only be described as X-rated, before the serious pub crawling began.

"Actually, we're singing R-rated and PG-13 rated Christmas carols, too," said Mr. Haller, 46, of Aliquippa, noting that Santarchy was invented by the Cacaphony Society, one of the groups responsible for the Burning Man festival in Nevada, variously described as an experiment in self-expression and "situationist" performance art.

Still, children were in the vicinity due to PirateFest at the convention center, so all Santas were warned by Mr. Haller on the Santarchy Facebook page to "bring innocent toys to hand out to kids and naughty toys to give to adults. DO NOT MAKE LIL KIDS CRY!"

Kyle Guida, 9, of Apollo was hardly teary eyed. He had been at lunch with his father and grandfather after attending PirateFest and looked a bit baffled by all the Santas but seemed pleased with his gift of a teddy bear, as did Dylan Ulrich, 8, and his brother Tyler, 10, who got a beach ball.

Mackenzie Carpenter: mcarpenter@post-gazette.com.

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