IF YOU GO
• What: Santa Pub Crawl.
• When: 6 p.m.-2 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 14.
• What it is: The idea is to visit eight local establishments in order and buy food or drink, but large crowds can make that difficult. And really, no one is making a naughty-or-nice list if you go out of order.
• What it does: Raises money for The Salvation Army's Angel Tree project.
• Big River Grille & Brewing Works
• Mellow Mushroom
• Sing It or Wing It
• Northshore Grille
• Hill City Pizza
• The Flying Squirrel
Kirby Yost remembers loading up her SUV with toys, then filling up her mother's vehicle with even more.
It was the first year of the Santa Pub Crawl, and she was feeling happy and proud that her plan had worked.
Yost never imagined the number of people who showed up dressed in holiday costumes and donated new toys to the Toys for Tots in its 2009 debut. Apparently, neither did the U.S. Marine who was supposed to meet her the next morning to receive the gifts.
"The Marine didn't even show up, so we had hundreds of toys that we had to pile by the front door," she said. "I don't think they took me very seriously or thought we'd collect that many toys."
She laughs about it now and says the experience made her determined to repeat the event and make it even better. As part of that expansion, the collected toys now go to the The Salvation Army's Angel Tree project, which works with the Toys for Tots program and several other Christmas toy collection programs to deliver toys to area kids.
To be fair to the young Marine, Yost, who was in law school at the time, put together that first pub crawl in just a few weeks after attending a similar one in New York City just before Thanksgiving.
"I should have been studying for finals, but I thought it would be fun and that it would work in Chattanooga because everything downtown is so centralized."
The original idea was simply to organize a pub crawl, with people dressing up in holiday garb and hopping visiting several bars and restaurants, but Yost wanted to do more.
"I guess I kind of thought if we were going to draw that many people to one place, we needed to do something good," she says. "If everyone does something small it can make a huge impact. I don't see the point of getting that many people together and not doing something good."
Her hope for that first one was that at least 25 or 30 of the friends and family members she'd begged and pestered on social media would show up.
More than 100 people donned Santa hats and reindeer antlers and visited the five participating restaurants and bars.
MAKING A DONATION
For the Santa Pub Crawl, bring a new, unwrapped toy. To learn more about how you can donate not just toys, but food, clothing, space heaters and toiletry items to The Salvation Army, visit www.csarmy.org/donate_drives.asp
RUN RUN RUDOLPH 5K
Cost for the walk/run is $30 and everyone is asked to bring a new toy and all entrants get a T-shirt. Sign up at www.runrun5k.com.
"I didn't know them," Yost said. "It was incredible."
Last year, more than 1,000 revelers participated in the crawl, making it the single largest contributor to the Angel Tree program, according to Jennifer Fisher, social media coordinator with The Salvation Army. Other agencies and groups have collected toys in the past, she says, but this is one of the more involved campaigns.
"This is probably one of the unique ones," Fisher says. "We have schools and churches do drives, but not on the level of this where it involves restaurants and other people."
This year, Yost and fellow organizers have added a run to the Dec. 14 event. The Run Run Rudolph 5K walk/run will start and finish at Coolidge Park beginning at 8 a.m. that day. Like the crawl, Yost says she hopes people will dress up in holiday finery and have some fun with it.
"It does not have to be a serious competition" she says. "We'll have prizes for the runners, but also for things like Best Costume. We want people to bring their kids in wagons or walk with them. It's a fun way to be outside and get in the holiday spirit."
Yost has enlisted the help of Fisher and friends Madison Werner, Chris Hennen and Candida Combs to help plan the run and pub crawl. The idea is that people will move from venue to venue hourly, but Yost realizes that, with so many people, it might not be practical.
"We just want people to have fun and bring a toy."
Contact Barry Courter at email@example.com or 423-757-6354.