About 5,000 Santa costume-clad folks are expected to join in this year’s eighth annual Reno Reindeer Games from Dec. 11 to 13.
This year’s happenings include skiing and bowling events, costume contests, and the signature pub crawl, with more than 40 downtown Reno, Nev., bars participating. The evening ends with thousands of people dressed as Santa meeting under the Reno Arch on Virginia Street.
Reno Reindeer Games is one of the largest such events on the West Coast, said Jill B. Stockton, communications manager at the Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority.
“For San Franciscans who have never been to Reno before, this is a great event to take advantage of,” she said.
“The reaction has been incredibly positive,” said Matty Goedert, the San Francisco tax attorney who founded the event. “This event takes people back to that ‘ah’ moment when they were a child. They say, ‘This is Christmas.’
“It’s a very fun event. People honk. They light up when they see you dressed as Santa.”
Parents bring their children out to see all the Santas, and many of the Santas — Goedert included — bring along little toys to give away.
“It’s sort of magical in a way,” he said.
Reindeer Games is a local fundraiser. This year, proceeds will benefit the Hashimoto Widows & Orphans Fund for the families of fallen law enforcement officers in the Reno-Sparks area. Goedert is from Reno and graduated from the University of Nevada.
Scores of hotels, bars, restaurants and retailers participate in the walkable downtown events, many of them offering discounts. Some of downtown’s big casino hotels are offering room rates as low as $29 a night.
The party starts Dec. 11 with a holiday pajama contest and bowling at the normally restricted-to-the public, 100-lane National Bowling Stadium. Cost is $15 for bowling and a charity donation. For those not dressed in pajamas or holiday garb, it’s $20.
On Dec. 12, Mount Rose ski resort is offering a $39 all-day lift ticket — with $5 going to charity — and holding a best-dressed contest.
“I just always wanted to ski in a Santa suit,” Goedert said.
Mount Rose also has snowboarding and sledding.
Also Dec. 12, participants in Santa-inspired garb gather downtown, sign up at one of seven official start bars and get an official map. Participants must be 21 years and older, and there are no events more than a half-mile from the Reno Arch, so there’s no need to drive.
Both Stockton and Goedert said there have been no major incidents in years past.
“The police keep things pretty tame,” Goedert said. “There were no arrests last year.”
On his way to work on a Saturday before Christmas in 2001, Goedert saw a bunch of people dressed as Santas go into a bar in San Francisco. “I thought, ‘Those guys are the luckiest people on earth,’” he said.
It sparked an idea. He was able to break away from work just before Christmas and head home to Reno. He bought seven Santa suits, which he gave to several friends, and they went on the town. At first, casino security was uneasy having a bunch of people all dressed as Santa coming in, and Goedert said his group was followed by a security team everywhere.
All was well by the end of the evening, though. Goedert and his friends were even allowed to sing in a lounge at the Silver Legacy Resort and Casino.
IF YOU GO
Reno Reindeer Games
When: Dec. 11-13
Where: Reno, Nev., in and around the Reno Arch
Events: Santa Crawl, Pajama Ball, Skiing Extravaganza, renoreindeergames.com