Krampus is the Christmas devil of the European Alps. A companion to Santa Claus, Krampus punishes naughty children and other wrongdoers by beating them with sticks and giving them coal.
At the fourth annual Krampus Night this Saturday in Bloomington, event organizers will hand out stickers reading “Naughty” and “Nice,” and attendees will decide which stickers they and their children wear. “Nice” people will get candy, and the “Naughty” will incur the fury of Krampus.
“People appreciate the accountability it brings,” said Bloomington Lead Krampus Wrangler Kel McBride. “Good behavior brings good things, and bad behavior brings bad things.”
At a meeting of about half of the 83 person Krampus crew Tuesday night at the Monroe County Public Library, McBride taught the devils’ handlers how to make sure the crowd stays safe.
“They’re wild beasts, and they have to be controlled,” McBride said.
At the event, participants can compete in a sack race and make a Krampus mask. For a donation, visitors can also enter Harm’s Way, where the Krampus will surround them.
“I’ve had friends of mine come from as far away as Evansville, Nashville, Indy and other small towns around,” crew member Jef Stelzner said. “It’s getting bigger every year.”
In the first year, the devils walked down the B-line trail. As it grew, the event moved to a parade route on the downtown streets. Event organizers expect 2,500 to 3,000 attendees this year.
Bloomington’s Krampus festival has attracted national attention — Christopher Bickel, an organizer with one of the earliest Krampus Nights to take place in the U.S., recently wrote about the celebration in an article on dangerousminds.net. Bickel called the celebration “perhaps the best Krampus event currently held in the United States,” and said its organizers “set the bar for American Krampus celebrations.”
Stelzner said the crew shared high fives at Tuesday’s meeting after hearing the article’s praise.
Unlike the devils at other events around the country, Bloomington’s devils are a performance troupe, and residents can’t dress up and join the parade.
People who requested to join the event on Krampus all received the same Facebook response from McBride: “Our Krampus are beasts and not people in costumes ... We appreciate your offer, but we have more than we can wrangle at this time.”
The Krampus Bazaar will run 5-7 p.m. Dec. 5 at the Showers Common, and the parade will occur at 6 p.m. on the route from Third Street to Showers Commons on Madison Street.
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