The screams of children could be heard above the pounding of drums and guttural roars of horned furry creatures Saturday night on the streets of Bloomington.
Around 4,700 people came to the Krampus Rampage and Bazaar, a holiday event reminding participants that being naughty around the holidays really does have consequences. The Krampus is a figure from Central-European folklore that is described as a half-goat, half-demon who punishes children for misbehaving.
While there is only one Krampus in folklore, Krampus events like this typically have multiple people dressed up as varying interpretations of the beast.
The bazaar took place at Showers Common next to City Hall where the Summer Farmer’s Market takes place. Craft tables were set up so children could create Krampus masks out of paper plates.
The bazaar also included sack races, food trucks and a booth selling Krampus gear. Along with t-shirts and mugs, the booth sold switches made from the thin sticks, similar to the switch the Krampus uses in folklore to beat naughty children before taking them away to his lair.
By 6 p.m., people lined both sides of North Madison Street, covering four blocks all the way from the bazaar to Fourth Street. Participants anxiously awaited the rampage, cramming together along the sidewalk and spilling onto the streets.
Before the rampage began, volunteers walked along the street handing out sets of black “nice” and white “naughty” stickers. Those wearing nice stickers would not be messed with, but people wearing naughty stickers would be roared at and swatted at with a switch.
Johanna Blume, who came to see the event from Indianapolis, wore a naughty sticker. She said she chose naughty because no one can be nice all year long.
It was Blume’s first time at the event. She was invited by a group of friends who have come to the event for years.
“I was sold on the idea when it was described to me as a mix of Halloween and Christmas,” Blume said.
An angel queen led the parade followed by angels twirling hula-hoops lit up in a rainbow of colors. Other angels handed out candy to participants wearing nice stickers. Along with them was St. Nicholas, dressed in long white and dark red robes with a pointed red hat marked with a large gold cross rather than the red and white suit.
“Das ist nicht so schön,” he said to someone wearing a naughty sticker, meaning “that is not so nice,” in German. The saint continued to warn others of the coming Krampus.
Finally, the Krampus arrived.
The Krampus was covered head to foot in brown and dark green shaggy fur with long, thin horns curling away from his head. In his claws was a torch from which he occasionally blew a plume of fire into the sky.
Following the Krampus were fire performers. Many twirled and spun fire around them as they danced through the streets. One man twirled an on-fire bull whip, snapping it in the street. Each crack of the whip made a short burst of flame that sent onlookers jumping back.
The last group to come through were more Krampus dressed in homemade suits and masks. They swatted their switches and spooked participants with roars and fearsome looks. Along with them were a few children chained up and screaming for help.
Amidst all the fun, the rowdy crowd was cause for complaint. Syndi Swoape took to Facebook to post that her child had been allegedly screamed at, hit and even thrown to the ground by another woman at the event.
“Worst experience we have had at any event in a long time,” Swoape said in her Facebook post.
Swoape said the crowd was out of control, but said the alleged assault was not the fault of event organizers. The Bloomington Krampus Facebook page responded to the post by saying this is the last thing they wanted to occur at the event and was the reason they had private security and Bloomington police on hand.
“We wanted to let you know that safety is our highest priority and that we are here to listen and help in any way that we can,” the Bloomington Krampus said in the comments of Swoape’s post.
The Bloomington Police Department did not receive a complaint from Swoape.
Bloomington Krampus later said in an email that Swoaper is supportive of the Krampus Rampage and Bazaar.
"Syndi has been very supportive of our event, has described this as an isolated incident involving only a few people, and has said that she will definitely be attending our event in the future,” social media coordinator and publicist for Bloomington Krampus, Elizabeth Ross, said.
After the rampage, many returned to the bazaar to get photos with Krampus or walk through “Harm’s Way,” a sectioned off part where Krampus were walking around with their switches in claw.
Graduate student Taylor Elliott said she likes the event because it brings up the duality of Christmas. She said the event harkens back to a time when being naughty around Christmas had more meaning.
“It’s a good reminder of Christmas’ original roots,” Elliott said.
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