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Krampus beasts punish the naughty, reward the nice of Bloomington



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A red-eyed Krampus prepares to hit the "naughty" parade attendees with his stick, which is called a ruten, Dec. 1 on North Madison Street. The parade, which started at 6 p.m., featured dancing angels, St. Nicholas and a number of Krampuses.  Haley Klezmer Buy Photos

The sound of chains hitting the concrete, screams from children and adults and growls from Krampus beasts could be heard through the streets of Bloomington on Saturday evening.

The half-goat, half-demon beasts, chains and screams were all part of the Krampus Rampage and Bazaaar event that took place Dec. 1.

The Krampus Legend and Arts Workshop has organized the event — which is on its seventh year — and Suzanne Donnelly, the chief financial officer, has been involved since the beginning.

“It’s a ton of fun,” Donnelly said. “It takes a little bit of legend, brings in the magic of the holiday season. It’s family friendly with an edge of being a little bit scary without being terrifying.”



Before the event began, attendees were given a choice between wearing a naughty or nice sticker. Those who chose naughty consented to being touched or swatted by the Krampus beasts, as well as possibly being left with an ashen mark on the face that is said to attract bad dreams. Those who wore the nice stickers were left untouched and were handed candy.

The rampage began at 6 p.m. on Fourth Street and made its way to Showers Common. The parade consisted of candy angels, hula hoop angels, fire spinners and Saint Nicholas followed by Krampus beasts and their handlers.

The angels, dressed entirely in white, led the group down the streets as they handed out candy and used LED hula hoops.

“Are you nice?” The angels asked as they handed out the candy to the children.

People dressed in all black holding torches and spinning fire followed the angels — one man walked with a whip lit on fire as he smacked it on the ground, greeted by screams from the audience.

The screams didn’t stop with the fire spinners, but instead were encouraged by the handlers for the Krampus beasts. 

“Scream loud for me kids,” said out one of the handlers holding a chain to contain the monsters.

The large, hairy monsters lunged and growled at the event attendees wearing naughty stickers, hitting the ground in front of them with their ruten, bundles of thin birch twigs legend says Krampus beast used to corral or punish children. 

After the parade came to a close, hundreds gathered in Showers Common, huddled beneath the metal awnings and umbrellas to avoid the on-and-off rain showers. People of all ages stood around eating from food trucks, watching fire spinners, making Krampus masks out of paper plates or waiting to take photos with Saint Nicholas and the beasts.

A fire-twirler swallows a flame during the Krampus Rampage and Bazaar on Dec. 1. The festival started at 5 p.m. and the parade began at 6 p.m. Haley Klezmer Buy Photos

Marcy Skelton, a Bloomington resident and candy angel, said she was pleasantly surprised by the turnout for the event. 

“I think it’s pretty darn good,” Skelton said. “I mean, really, look at all these people on a rainy December first.” 

Donnelly said the event has the largest Krampus participation in North America, and last year they had more than 5000 people attend the parade and the bazaar.

For some, this event is tradition.

“There are some kids that come to this, that this is the only holiday event they know,” Donnelly said. “They’re 7 years old and they’ve been coming to this every year — they don’t know a Christmas season or a holiday season without a Krampus.”

The event has between 15 and 22 Krampus roam the streets, and anywhere from 80 to 100 people help make the event happen behind the scenes.

How the Krampus beasts are put together, however, is kept a secret to keep the magic alive.

“It’s not a costume,” Donnelly said. “They’re Krampus.”

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