Inside Events: The Santa Hustle | Sports Destination Management

Inside Events: The Santa Hustle

An Interview with Jay Nevans, Race Director
Dec 16, 2022 | By: Mary Helen Sprecher

The last time we checked in with The Santa Hustle was in back in 2016. You know, back before 2020. But the event has survived and thrived, and this year, it will be offered as both 5Ks and half marathons (as well as kids’ runs) in destinations around the U.S.

LogoThe Santa is now in its 12th year, has (duh) a seasonal theme, with festive music, holiday decorations, giant Christmas-themed inflatable structures and thousands of runners dressed in red (the clothing is part of the swag for each participant). The event is offered in multiple states during the six weeks leading up to Christmas.

This year, the event takes place in Atlanta, Atlantic City, Chicago, Galveston (Texas), Glendale (Arizona), Indianapolis, Nashville, Roseville (California) and Sevierville (Tennessee) as well as a virtual race that anyone in the USA can join.

By the way, for the virtual race, organizers note, “Santa Claus is an incredible man but unfortunately, he can’t be everywhere at once. However, he does want you to be a part of the jolliest race series of the year! So why not run virtually? The Virtual Santa Hustle® can be 3.1, 6.2 miles, 13.1 miles, or even 26.2 miles at your choice of location, any duration of time, during the designated dates of December 1 – 31, 2022. Run by yourself or with a group, just get out and have a fun time!”

Santa Hustle
All images courtesy of the Santa Hustle

With that in mind, pull up an easy chair, open your copy of A Visit From St. Nicholas (colloquially known as “The Night Before Christmas”), sip some eggnog (wait, weren’t you doing that last time when you were reading about Santa Sunday?) and enjoy learning more about this great seasonal event.

SDM: The race is presented in different formats. Does it attract competitive runners?

Jay Nevans: Well, the majority of the runners are there for a fun holiday experience but it does attract some competitive runners. We give out age group awards as well as overall awards.

Sports Destination Management: This year, you're offering 5Ks and half marathons, as well as some children's races. Do you plan to have any other formats?

Nevan: The Atlanta race has a 5K and a 10K. We also still have the half marathons; those tend to attract a more specific type of runner, since that distance takes preparation and training. You don't just roll out of bed and decide to run a half marathon.

Santa Hustle SDM: Volunteer-wise, what kind of support do you need?

Nevan: It really depends on the race, the location and the course we're using. In the Smokies, we definitely needed volunteers but in the Atlanta race, they aren't really necessary. 

SDM: Back in 2016, there were hot chocolate, candy canes and a lot of fun food. People must love it.

Nevan: It's funny you should mention that. The Atlanta race is a bit of a unicorn. We are starting and finishing at the ASW Exchange so we'll have whiskey tasting too.

SDM: Do you still give out the Santa beards and red shirts?

Nevan: We change it up from location to location. In some cities, people get a hat, a beard and a red hoodie; in others, they might get a grey hoodie and a hat. Our website has a list of the swag for each location.

SDM: The race has a strong give-back policy. What charities benefit?

Nevans: 2022 charity partners are as follows:

  • Santa Hustle Atlanta: Atlanta BeltLine, which builds a more equitable and inclusive Atlanta and engaging partners by delivering transformative public infrastructure that enhances mobility, fosters culture, and improves connections to economic opportunity.
  • Atlantic City: The Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Atlantic and Cape May Counties is the official charity. Big Brothers and Big Sisters vision is that all children achieve success in life. To accomplish this, they partner with parents/guardians, volunteers and others in the community and hold themselves accountable for each child in the program achieving: Higher aspirations, greater confidence, and better relationships, avoidance of risky behaviors, and educational success.

P.S. This race is also a drop-off spot for Toys for Tots!

  • Chicago: Cal's Angels, a 501(c)(3) pediatric cancer foundation with a mission of granting wishes, raising awareness, and funding research to help kids fighting cancer, is the approved charity.
  • Galveston: The Official 2022 Santa Hustle® Galveston Charity is Galveston County Food Bank, which provides easy access to nutritional food for the economically disadvantaged, underserved populations of Galveston County through a network of participating charitable organizations, schools, and food bank-managed programs focused on serving vulnerable populations
  • Santa Hustle Glendale: The Official 2022 Santa Hustle® Arizona Charity is Glendale Firefighter Charities. Glendale Firefighters Charities supports varied community causes and programs without regard to any socio-economic classifications.
  • Indianapolis: The Official 2022 Santa Hustle® Indy Charity is Little Red Door Cancer Agency, offering services for cancer patients, resources for those in need and information on cancer prevention. The organization strives to make the most of life and the least of cancer by reducing the physical, emotional, and financial burdens of cancer for the medically underserved residents of central Indiana.
  • Nashville: The Official 2022 Santa Hustle® Nashville Charity is Bike Walk Nashville. Walk Bike Nashville creates opportunities for people to learn, grow and feel safe to move through the city by foot, bicycle, and transit — both those who currently do, and those who’d like to. The organization’s motto: People need to thrive even if they don’t drive.
  • Santa Hustle Roseville, California: The Official 2022 Santa Hustle® Roseville Charity is Stand Up Placer. Stand Up Placer firmly believes that everyone – regardless of age, culture, disability, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, marital status, nationality, race, religion, sexual orientation or socio-economic status – deserves to live a life free from violence. The organization provides victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking in Placer County with a safe, caring and nurturing environment.
  • Sevierville, Tennessee: The Official 2022 Santa Hustle® Smokies Charity is Mountain Hope Good Shepherd Clinic. Santa Hustle Smokies is proud to partner with Mountain Hope Good Shepherd Clinic. Mountain Hope Good Shepherd Clinic is a community clinic which provides quality healthcare for the medically uninsured who live or work in Sevier County, Tennessee.
  • Virtual Santa Hustle: Yes, even this has a charity partner, Trees for Troops. The organization ships fresh Christmas trees, grown on an American farm and delivered either to troops who are serving or to families who stayed behind to support that service member.

SDM: Is the Santa Hustle active on social media?

Nevans: Yes, we are on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.

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