Wade Ritchie, Ryan Russell, Kenneth Ogden, Matt Lewis and Brendan Ritchie
Graeme Butler (left) Cam Blewett, David Boulton and Johnny Nicolson Pictures: DAVID CROFT, ROBERT PEET
Melissa Bryant (left), Tarryn Davidson and Alicia Dubois
Hundreds crowd the North Gong Hotel.
Joyful and triumphant, they came in record numbers to foster Christmas spirits.Wollongong's annual Santa Claus Pub Crawl brought 2500 to 3000 costumed revellers out on Saturday night, for a festive tradition fast outgrowing the city centre.The crowd was up from 2000 last year, and organisers are considering expanding the event to neighbouring suburbs in 2010."The pub crawl would still take place in the city, but it would be a Santa Claus Night, like St Patrick's Day," organiser Neil "Satan Claus" Webster said. SLIDESHOW: Wollongong Santa Claus Pub Crawl 2009 "You might have 200 Santas in Thirroul, and another 200 at Coniston," he said.The event supports the Salvation Army and raised a record $15,000 in cash and $40,000-$50,000 in donated toys.Known for its elaborate and unique costumes, the crawl crowd didn't disappoint - six gingerbread men, a black Santa Claus suit and man-sized Christmas pudding were among the highlights. "Every year people are coming up with different ideas to out-do each other," Mr Webster said. "You might see 100 angels on the night, but they all look slightly different." The event attracted no adverse police attention or arrests. Mr Webster said its charm lay more in socialising than boozing."Because everyone's in costume it knocks down those social barriers and it's very easy to talk to people," he said.