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Swarm of Santas Planning Charitable Invasion of Asbury Saturday

"SantaCon" is one big town-wide party and charitable collection, dressed in red velvet and white fur.

Here comes Santa Claus. Approximatey 500 of them, organizers of the 2012 SantaCon in Asbury Park estimate, will gather for city-wide fun and charity this Saturday.

Which of these Santas is the real one? It might be hard to tell, but one of these Santas calls himself Swayze Claus, and he's one of the jolly old elves in charge around SantaCon.

The mission of SantaCon? "This year, beautiful Asbury Park will come alive with red and white merriment as we gather to sing songs, play reindeer games, spread joy, and give to those less fortunate," said Swayze Claus.

Participants should bring an unwrapped toy and/or a nonperishable food item, which will be donated to charity, and expect to have a good time among hundreds of Santas, elves, scrooges, Grinches, reindeer, menorah candles, or other costumes they feel represent the holiday spirit.

The event begins noon Saturday and doesn't end until everyone is at home nestled sound in their beds. Lots of Asbury Park businesses are offering special events and deals to help celebrate.

The full details are here on the New Jersey SantaCon website, where organizers are adding specifics and surprises through Saturday. For example, the surprise starting location will be announced on their website Friday morning.

Patch tracked down Swayze Claus for an interview as he works to bring some absurdity and holiday magic to the Jersey Shore. Here's what he had to say.

Swayze Claus: Why hello ho ho ho!

Patch: Hey Swayze Claus! First, can you tell me the difference between you and Santa Claus?

Swayze Claus: Sure. Santa is this larger than life guy who sets a great example of giving and good will. I'm just a regular dude trying to follow that example.

Patch: Do you still know who has been naughty and who has been nice?

Swayze Claus: I don't have a big list like the real Mr. Claus, but after a couple of SantaCons, you start getting a pretty good idea of who falls where in the naughty & nice departments.

Patch: What is SantaCon exactly?

Swayze Claus: It's a global tradition that was started many years ago by some folks on the West Coast and has blossomed into an incredible way to get yourself into the holiday spirit without having to submerge yourself in the consumer culture as much. At its heart, SantaCon is a non-denominational, non-commercial, non-political and non-sensical Santa Claus convention that occurs once a year for absolutely no reason.

Patch: How does one participate in SantaCon?

Swayze Claus: To answer your question Ms. Galioto, anyone can participate in SantaCon. All you need is an appropriate costume. We have Santas, Elves, Christmas Trees, Hanukkah candles, presents, Scrooges, and a whole variety of colorful characters associated with this magical time of year. Just bring your good spirits and a creative costume. Simply wearing a Santa hat is not enough!

Patch: And you're collecting donations?

Swayze Claus: The event is free and open to adults, but we are asking that each participant bring a charitable donation of either canned food or a new and unwrapped toy. If you're going to play Santa, nothing puts you in the mood better than giving. 

We will have a station setup at the meet up location where Santas can drop off their donations so they don't have to carry them around all day.

The food is going to the Monmouth And Ocean County Foodbank. While the toys will go to the Asbury Holiday Toy and Coat drive. 

Patch: What will make Saturday special for SantaCon?

Swayze Claus: Part of the reason for organizing this wonderful gathering of Santas was to bring some positive energy to the Jersey Shore. After the storm, the community has seen more than its fair share of hard times. Bringing hundreds of folks to the area to sing songs, play games, and give generously just seems like the right thing to do...and this is the right time to do it.

Patch: Anything to add?

Swayze Claus: Yes. I'd like to let everyone know that the businesses of Asbury Park are very excited about this invasion of Santas. There are many fun and exciting surprises planned for the day. People who participate should come prepared to do a good bit of walking. Anyone interested in more details can check out our website at njsantacon.com or follow me on twitter @swayzeclaus

I look forward to seeing everyone's shiny, happy faces. Ho ho ho, and a MERRY CHRISTMAS to all!

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