Kris Kringles swarm city pubs for SantaCon 

People throughout San Francisco today shared sidewalks, public parks and bar space with several hundred people dressed as Santa Claus, elves, reindeer and other holiday figures for SantaCon 2011.

For more photos from SantaCon 2011, click on the photo to the right.

The annual gathering and pub crawl, in which thousands of Santas descend upon cities worldwide, drew more than 1,000 people to San Francisco's Civic Center around noon today to kick off the holiday fun.

Shortly after 1 p.m., police directed traffic on Polk Street near Civic Center as hundreds of Santas posed for a group picture on the steps of City Hall.

For the hundreds of festively dressed Bay Area residents attending the citywide pub crawl this year, SantaCon -- also known as Santarchy - is a fun,

quirky way to celebrate the holiday season with friends.

Many attendees, like Walnut Creek residents Jayme Anderson, 42, and Bill McHugh, 45, took BART into the city to attend today's festivities with friends.

McHugh said there were about two dozen other Santas in their BART car alone this morning.

For local bars, serving these Santa-suit-clad patrons, while sometimes rowdy, tends to mean more income.

"Its always a great turnout and everybody's always festive, happy and spending money," said Tom Whalen, manager of Ace's bar in the Tenderloin.

By 1:30 p.m., about 30 SantaCon revelers had entered the bar, with more trickling in, he said.

Whalen said patrons there during the last four SantaCons have largely been respectful and that, so far, he's never had to ask any of them to leave.

On the San Francisco SantaCon website, a list of dos and don'ts advises participants to "be awesome to bar staff" and to ensure they have identification handy, pay with cash and tip well.

Shortly before 2 p.m., a bar spokesman said some 400 Santas had filled Lefty O'Doul's at 333 Geary St., another stop along the informal pub crawl route.

SantaCon festivities are set to continue through tonight at a number of San Francisco bars.

More information about this year's event, including a pub crawl map, can be found at http://sanfranciscosantarchy.wordpress.com/.

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