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Des Moines celebrates 12 years of drinking with Santa


The Santa Pub Crawl has grown to hundreds of participants in the last few years.

The Santa Pub Crawl has grown to hundreds of participants in the last few years.

Twelve years ago, John Johnson and Jason Kiesau gathered a group of friends together and rented a party bus. Each dressed like Santa Claus and set out to have a good time in Des Moines while visiting four bars. Most everyone seemed to love the idea, and the event spread like wildfire — so much so that the two felt the need to take it to another level.

“I don’t know if it was a decision (to start the crawl) as much as it was a reaction,” Kiesau said.

The Santa Pub Crawl, one of several events by Johnson and Kiesau’s North Pole Entertainment, started off slowly but then picked up speed.

“The first two years, it was just kind of word of mouth. At year three, we built a website that had an option to pay online, and everything just kind of exploded from there,” said Kiesau. “We went from year one with 50 people, year two to 100 people, year three to 200 and year four to 650 people.”

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Partygoers can choose from three different options to participate in the Christmas-themed fun. The Downtown Crawl, in which people will visit four different bars (all specials are included), is $15. At $25, the Classic Santa Pub Crawl is a basic party bus. Finally, the VIP Party Bus is $35 and offers a bus fully equipped with music, a dance floor and stripper poles. Participants also have the option of bringing their own coolers and beverages. Group discounts will also be offered. Visit www.desmoinespubcrawl.com to purchase your tickets.

A Kinky Vodka Pre-Party begins at 5 p.m. on Dec. 6 at The Venue downtown. The pre-party is included with purchase of any ticket and includes beer and pizza, a place to make donations to Toys for Tots and a place to have pictures taken. The pictures will be submitted to a team of judges who will choose the best individual, duo/trio and group costumes to be voted on by customers. The winners will be announced at the end of the week.

Participating bars include The Venue, Cabaret West, Wellman’s Pub & Rooftop, Blue Moon Dueling Piano Bar, Miss Kitty’s, Mickey’s Irish Pub, DownUnder Bar, Johnny’s Hall of Fame, Beer Can Alley, and Jokers. There will be no cover charge at participating bars, and each will have all-night drink specials, including $2 Miller Lite and Coors Light draws and bottles, $3 Jack Daniel’s, Absolute Vodka and Captain Morgan calls, $3 Kinky Vodka cocktails and $5 Jagermeister shots.

In the last 10 years, North Pole Entertainment has donated more than $30,000 to charities including Variety: The Children’s Charity, Mentor Iowa, Susan G. Komen and Toys for Tots. The group hosts a total of nine “crawls,” including Single Mingle Pub Crawl, Pre-Patty Pub Crawl, ’70s Pub Crawl, Cinco de Mayo Pub Crawl, Are You Ready for Some Football Pub Crawl, Pink Pub Crawl, Halloween Pub Crawl, Patio Pub Crawl and the Santa Pub Crawl.

“It’s playing off of stuff that we’ve been conditioned to celebrate since we were little,” explains Kiesau. CV

Santa Pub Crawl
Saturday, Dec. 6
Starts at 5 p.m. at The Venue
Downtown Walk: $15
Classic Bus: $25
VIP Bus: $35
Visiting 4-10 bars
Ends back at The Venue at 12:15 p.m.


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