Mike Jackets, left, and Jason Lacey take part in a crucial aspect of the Santa pub crawl tradition. Photo by Laura Guido/Whidbey News-Times

Mike Jackets, left, and Jason Lacey take part in a crucial aspect of the Santa pub crawl tradition. Photo by Laura Guido/Whidbey News-Times

A Good Claus

Collection of Santas and other holiday icons collect food for Help House

It wasn’t milk in Santa’s cup this holiday season. But a festive tradition to paint downtown Oak Harbor red (and green) should land these jolly drinkers on the nice list.

Last Friday night, approximately 30 Santas, Grinches, Mrs. Clauses and people with over-the-top holiday sweaters took to Pioneer Way.

Even the infamous pink bunny suit from “A Christmas Story made an appearance.”

This year, in addition to merriment and libations — they gathered for a cause. Though there was plenty of fun, organizer Steve Clarke asked that each attendee bring food donations for North Whidbey Help House, and within 20 minutes of the event’s start at the first bar, the group filled two large garbage bins full of collections.

In total, the pub crawl crowd collected around 200 items, according to Eric Mager, deputy director for Help House.

“I wanted to make it for something,” Clarke said. “We’re getting out and doing something for somebody else.”

The timing is ideal for the food bank, Mager said. The Help House creates holiday food baskets in addition to its normal food deliveries and this almost doubles the amount of food given out, he said.

“We’re grateful whenever the community pulls together for an event and thinks of the people that could benefit from a food drive,” Mager said.

Clarke began the tradition three years ago as a way to get his friends together. He made a Facebook group, and his friends invited their friends and so on until it grew as large as to include more than 60 Santas last year.

Mike Jackets has attended every year and noted that even before it became a food drive, it was certainly benefiting some of the local businesses.

“It’s kind of like Black Friday for all the bartenders,” he said.

Last Friday, the Christmas mob started at Jo Jo’s Harbor Light Tavern, packed the limited space at Riverside Cafe & Lounge, had their white-trimmed suits glow in the black lights at Off the Hook and ended the night at Oak Harbor Tavern.

Occasionally, Clarke’s voice would boom over the buzz in the bar, “Santa pub crawl 2018!” And it was always met with cheers.

Becky Hagemann is one of the attendees who heard about the event through a friend of a friend.

“It sounded like fun, and I needed a night out,” Hagemann said.

Although the theme certainly centered around Christmas, not everyone in attendance necessarily celebrated the holiday.

“I’m Jewish, I’ve never celebrated Christmas before,” said Jason Lacey, a first-year Santa pub crawler dressed in full Kris Kringle attire. “… It’s very liberating.”

From left, Millie Goebel, Jerin Applegarth and Skip Dickinson chat in Jo Jo’s Harbor Light Tavern Friday night. Dressed as Mrs. Clause, the bunny suit from A Christmas Story and the Grinch, the group attended the annual Santa pub crawl, which this year included a food drive for North Whidbey Help House. Photo by Laura Guido/Whidbey News-Times

From left, Millie Goebel, Jerin Applegarth and Skip Dickinson chat in Jo Jo’s Harbor Light Tavern Friday night. Dressed as Mrs. Clause, the bunny suit from A Christmas Story and the Grinch, the group attended the annual Santa pub crawl, which this year included a food drive for North Whidbey Help House. Photo by Laura Guido/Whidbey News-Times

Steve Clarke, founder and organizer of the annual Santa pub crawl, sits at the bar at Jo Jo’s Harbor Light Tavern. This year, he decided to make the event a food drive for North Whidbey Help House. Photo by Laura Guido/Whidbey News-Times

Steve Clarke, founder and organizer of the annual Santa pub crawl, sits at the bar at Jo Jo’s Harbor Light Tavern. This year, he decided to make the event a food drive for North Whidbey Help House. Photo by Laura Guido/Whidbey News-Times

The group of Santas, Grinches, elves and more gather on Pioneer Way toward the beginning of the annual Santa pub crawl. The participates collected over 200 food items for the North Whidbey Help House at the beginning of the night. Photo by Laura Guido/Whidbey News-Times

The group of Santas, Grinches, elves and more gather on Pioneer Way toward the beginning of the annual Santa pub crawl. The participates collected over 200 food items for the North Whidbey Help House at the beginning of the night. Photo by Laura Guido/Whidbey News-Times

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