Jolly Santas bring goodwill to all who crawl

When Wollongong Santa Claus Pub Crawl founder Neil Webster was assaulted in Sydney on Christmas Eve, 1997, he knew he needed to up the ante on the slowly growing charity event back home.

Mr Webster was set upon by five men after leaving a Sydney bar, suffering a fractured jaw, multiple cracked ribs and a concussion.

The fourth annual Wollongong pub crawl had been held a few weeks earlier, at the time only attracting a few hundred Santa-clad revellers.

It was in the days after the assault Mr Webster realised he needed to inject a bit of "Christmas cheer" into the event, and began his quest to break down social barriers among partying Santa Clauses, and ultimately create an event free from alcohol-fuelled violence.

This year, as it has numerous times throughout its 20-year history, the Santa Claus Pub Crawl will coincide with a national police operation targeting drunken violence.

As part of Operation Unite, a larger than normal policing presence will be out on the streets of the Wollongong CBD on Saturday and Sunday night, and police have urged partygoers to be on their best behaviour.

Mr Webster said that during its history, the event had been praised by police for its ability to be held with few or no incidents.

"Social barriers get broken during the course of the night," he said.

"Generally if you go to the pub with a group of friends you ... don't approach strangers," said Mr Webster. "But with the pub crawl, because everyone is dressed up, it becomes a bit of a team thing, it makes people a lot easier to approach."

More than 10,000 people are expected to take part in this year's event, which will visit 18 venues.

The Santa Claus Pub Crawl raises funds for the Salvation Army's Christmas efforts.

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