Before Santa arrives this winter, a more sinister visitor is scheduled to hit the streets of Bloomington.
Krampus Night is taking over 5 to 8 p.m. Saturday at the Showers Commons in the parking lot next to City Hall. The event will feature a Holiday Bazaar that includes Krampus-themed merchandise from local artists, holiday activities and crafts, and food and themed drinks from the Bloomington Brewing Company and the Friendly Beast Cider Company.
“To me the core of the legend and the core of our event is ‘bad behavior has bad consequences and that good behavior has good consequences,’ and that’s something I think that as a culture we’ve kind of lost touch of in some ways,” event director Kel McBride said.
McBride, who calls herself the “head Krampus wrangler,” said the event started in Bloomington in 2012.
She said the event is a celebration of the Krampus, the legend of terrifying holiday beasts that remind us bad behavior does not go unpunished. She said Bloomington’s Krampus night is the largest Krampus event in North America.
The annual event draws on the legend of the Krampus, a creature in popular holiday folklore of Alpine States. The story goes that while Santa rewards good children with gifts each Christmas, the Krampus comes to torture those on the naughty list.
Around 6 p.m. a “Rampage” parade of “tall, hairy beasts” and fire performers will begin south of the intersection of Madison and 11th streets, marching down two blocks into the commons.
The Holiday Bazaar will feature festive activities for children and adults, such as the “hop in a sack race,” and stations to make Krampus masks or draw Krampus-inspired chalk art.
In the past, the Bazaar has offered exclusive Krampus merchandise from local artists such as mugs and ornaments. This year the event treasurer, Suzanne Donnelly, said it will offer items including a new T-shirt and postcards.
Guests can also grab a ‘naughty’ or ‘nice’ sticker with any purchase or donation of $2 at the bazaar.
Guests marked with a nice sticker may be visited by “St. Nick” and his angels and receive candy. After, the ‘naughty’ will be visited by the Krampus, mythic creatures with large horns and demonic faces, who may frighten and chase them, take away their gifts or leave them with a lump of coal.
The Rampage also features live performances.
“No event is the same,” Donnelly said. “Every year we may have hoopsters or fire spinners, but it's never the same performance.”
McBride said the event is intended for both kids and adults. She said apprehensive parents should use their best judgement in deciding if their children can handle the event.
“If a kid can handle a trip to the mall to see Santa or the Easter Bunny in stride, they’re probably going to be fine with us, but if they freak out on the Easter Bunny, then Krampus is going to be really hard on them,” McBride said.
Alisha Martin said this will be her and her daughter’s sixth year attending Krampus Night.
She’s taken a picture of her daughter with one specific monster with tall, hooked horns three times.
“She has an absolute favorite, so I’m really hoping we can manage to find him this year,” Martin said. “Because they are getting so big now, we had to chase him down for about 20 minutes last year.”
Martin said she loves the opportunity to raise her child around other cultural perspectives.
“It’s such a labor of love and art and culture that I really love seeing them supported,” Martin said. “There’s not enough support for cultural art projects.”