All About TBOX: Festa's Original 12 Bars of Xmas Bar Crawl in Wrigleyville, Chicago

The Short Answer: TBOX®is an acronym for Twelve Bars Of Xmas, an extraordinarily large pub crawl held every year on the 2nd Saturday of December in Wrigleyville, Chicago. It goes from 8am to 8pm, and in 2017 it takes place on December 9th. TBOX has donated almost $250,000 since 2009 to charities including Lakeview Pantry.

TBOX was was founded by Chicagoan Christopher Festa in 1996 as a small get-together for his friends from work.  Originally a sequential tour of 12 bars, TBOX is now an all-day, area-wide event, encompassing 50+ bars in the Lakeview area of Chicago. Starting with 60 people, it grew and grew, with over 150,000 attendees through 2014. A Chicago institution, TBOX attracts people from all 50 states and dozens of foreign countries. Now the largest event of its kind in the world, it is Chicago’s biggest party day next to St. Patrick’s Day and the city’s frequent Stanley Cup celebrations.  Everyone dresses in outrageous costumes, gets up incredibly early in the morning, braves the winter weather, and goes wild for 12 gleeful hours.

WIRE TO WIRE BABY!

Are you ready to go Wire to Wire on Saturday, December 9 starting at 10AM in Wrigleyville?? “Wire to Wire, Baby!” (WTWB) is the official TBOX slogan. It means that a participant, goes all the way, all out, from start to finish, and leaves it all out on the playing field! TBOX isn’t something you dabble in… it’s an all-day commitment to outrageous fun. How did it start?
In sports, the term “Wire to Wire” loosely means to not only WIN but to be leading the entire team, showing endurance, style, and class from start to finish. It originated with horse racing (literally, the starting and finishing wires) – and now serves as a reminder: “You’re having the time of your life at 11AM? Guess what? You’ve got 9 hours to go!” And although crawlers at TBOX and our other events are not required to go from start to end, we respect and admire those partiers with the skill and dedication to pull it off!

THE CEREAL

The Whole Story, as Told by Mister Festa…

Back in 19xx while in high school in Vero Beach, Florida, I had started to become aware of beer sometime in 10th grade. Believe it or not, I was not one of the Cool Kids — but I was invited to my first keg party around St Patrick’s Day. The cool kids (known as “The Hippies”) hosting the party made me and my other newbie partier friends drink an entire large bucket filled with green beer, topped off with an entire box of Lucky Charms poured into it. I wasn’t able to finish it all, but the results a few minutes later in the driveway were… colorful.

I didn’t think much of this until St. Patrick’s Day 8 years later when I was briefly living in Miami before moving to Chicago. Some of my high school friends came down for the weekend, and just on a lark for nostalgia, we took a box of Lucky Charms out with us to the bars. And WOW! Literally  EVERY GIRL came up asking for cereal. We were the center of attention, I got all kinds of phone numbers, and people thought it was incredibly cool.

When I moved to Chicago, I started taking boxes of Cap’n Crunch with me to the small bar crawls I threw for my Accenture co-workers, and everybody still loved it. So at the first TBOX, OF COURSE I took 2 boxes of cereal with me. At that point, the ostensible — and still valid — reason for the cereal was to give you energy and line your stomach for the long day of partying. Nothing like processed flour and 500 grams of sugar to keep you vertical through 12 bars! And because it was cute and fun,  everyone soon started bringing cereal.

But in the Year 2000, it suddenly became something much, much more. At the first bar of TBOX5, seeing my friend Tammy waiting in the elevated seats by the front door of Sheffield’s, I decided to surprise her by not just handing her some cereal, but pouring the entire box into her mouth.  And right there, THE CEREAL SHOT was born.

I had been inspired sometime before by having an “Upside Down Margarita” — and I felt that with the LONG day of partying, doing CEREAL shots was an innocent way to do a shot without excessive drinking. It has also proved to be a very “cinematic” element of TBOX. And from then on, the volume, velocity, and variety of Cereal Shots has grown and grown.

COSTUMES

Costumes: EVERYBODY Goes All-Out Dressing Up for TBOX – Are You Ready?!?!
2017 marks the 22nd ANNIVERSARY for TBOX… so we decided to make it legendary and have the theme as CHRISTMAS VACATION! We can’t wait to see Clark Street filled with crazy Vacation Costumes and Christmas themed costumes!

Hard to believe, but TBOX started out as just another Christmas party, just another bar crawl, just another reason to party. But over the years, people started going NUTS with their TBOX Costumes, and we fully encourage, embrace, and practically require participants to dress to the nines. Remember the formula: TBOX Costume = Christmas + Halloween + St. Patrick’s Day (without the emphasis on green) – and we appreciate all who’ve made TBOX such an amazing spectacle with how they dress.

Back in the day, a few people maybe wore a Santa Hat, and that was it. Look at the old pictures… you might not even recognize it as TBOX!  But in 2001-2002, a few people began wearing Santa suits, Sexy Santa dresses as well as some other bling. By 2006-2007 we reached a tipping point where “Your TBOX Outfit” became a thing unto its own… still Christmas-influenced in some cases, but becoming more and more distinctive. As a guideline today, if people aren’t STARING at you the minute you leave the house, you’re probably underdressed!

What Should YOU Wear? TBOX outfits generally fall into one of these categories:

Christmas / Holiday Inspired: Santa, Christmas Trees, Reindeer, Snowmen, Ornaments, Ugly Sweaters, and all that… plus Hanukkah stuff for our Jewish crawlers…

The TBOX Yearly Theme – For 2016, it is TBOX THE WEDDING – So bust out the Tacky Wedding Apparel, Bridesmaid Dresses, and all that!!! For 2015, it was TBOX THE MOTION PICTURE (Movie Theme)… Especially if you’ve been to TBOX before, you can dress within the theme.  Past Themes have included High School Yearbook 2009, Amusement Park 2010, Summer Camp 2011, TBOXOPOLY 2012, Air TBOX Airline 2013, and TBOX Zoo 2014.

Cereal or Other TBOX-y Theme – Many people dress like their favorite cereal mascot or other cereal-related or “Inside-TBOX” type costume.

Random Crazy Theme – We have no problem with you recycling your Halloween Costume (if you had a good one)… you’ll get to expose it to a huge new audience. The more wild, more colorful, more out of left field, the better. Your imagination is the limit!

STICKERS

Stickers at TBOX
We have made and passed out over 1.3 MILLION stickers at TBOX Bar Crawls since we started – WE ABSOLUTELY LOVE PUTTING FUNNY STICKERS ON PEOPLE!!! And we have some great ones for #TBOX2016 THE WEDDING THIS YEAR!!! Read on to learn all about the famous TBOX STICKERS!!! And watch our little video too!!!
Through TBOX 2014, we’ve made over ONE MILLION STICKERS for our crawls, and collecting stickers has become one of the most beloved parts of TBOX!

We started with the stickers at the 7th TBOX in 2002. The day before, Mr. Festa had the idea to make a few stickers on return address labels on his home printer with little messages like Wire to Wire or Bust, Freak, TBOX Virgin, and a few other simple phrases. And people went nuts for them.

And of course, things got more elaborate. We started making personal stickers for the Royal Court Members to hand out, and by 2008-2009, finally abandoned the homemade Avery Label stickers to start making professionally-printed full-color stickers. And then we started to make flirty stickers… and then we started making stickers for each bar… and we saw that it was good. Scroll down to experience some of the stickers you can only get at TBOX!

We know that you and your friends want to take lots of photos when you come to the TBOX Incorporated Bar Crawls. Our PHOTO FRAMES are one of the many memories you’ll be getting from TBOX!

How did this start? As a youth, Mr. Festa remembered seeing these “Kodak Picture Spot” signs all around Disney World telling you where nice places to take a picture would be. It seemed really absurd, like, do you really need to be told where to take a picture? But it stuck in his head… and he happened to remember this in 2002, but wanted to enhance the concept. So he bought a piece of foam board, cut out the center, wrote around the outside, and the first frame was born – and it was a hit! By 2008, we started making professional frames, and today, our sponsor Bud Light prints beautiful full-color frames for every TBOX venue. We also have frames for our other crawls throughout the year!

TBOX VIRGINITY

What it means to be a TBOX Virgin – And What We Do For You
Will #TBOX2017 be your first TBOX? We deeply appreciate first-timers who take the plunge to do TBOX – it’s a True BUCKET LIST EXEPRIENCE that you have to do to be a TRUE CHICAGO PARTIER!!!  We know that some of you have no idea what you’re getting into, and we want to make sure you’re treated properly and that people know to show you the ropes. That’s why we make these Bright Pink TBOX VIRGIN stickers that you can proudly wear all day. And to LOSE your TBOX VIRGINITY, you have to get a Royal Court Member to do a little thing and then sign off on your sticker.  Read on for details!

How Did This Start?  Back in 2002, Mr. Festa decided to start printing stickers on his home printer, and he had the idea to give out little “Virgin” stickers to first-timers. People loved it, and we started making them fancier and fancier.

In order to LOSE your TBOX Virginity, you need to do the following:

Make sure to get your VIRGIN sticker at the TBOX packet pick up
Find a TBOX Royal Court Member
Have them Give You a Cereal Shot or a Kiss
Take a Picture
They’ll sign your sticker
Ta-da… no longer a TBOX VIRGIN!

THE ROYAL COURT

The TBOX Royal Court are the VIPs of TBOX who serve as our Brand Ambassadors and Party Facilitators. The Royal Court gets TONS of special privileges and goodies and has and INCREDIBLE amount of fun as a reward for promoting and being loyal to TBOX and our other events. If you are interested in joining the Royal Court in 2017, please use the CONTACT US form above and say you want to be Royal!

The Royal Court members get gold-chain license plates with their badge numbers, participate in the Opening & Closing Ceremonies, get their own personalized stickers, get to join the infamous secret Royal Team Building exercise, and get to enjoy the whole wonderful world of being a Festa Partier!  Read On for how this all started and how YOU can become Royalty!!!

OPENING & CLOSING CEREMONIES

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BADGES AND NUMBERS

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YEARLY THEMES

Why Does TBOX, Which is a Theme, Have Another Theme? I’m Confused! Totally understandable, but here’s the short answer… since we strive to be continually creative and awesome, and since so many people come to TBOX year after year, we decided back in 2009 to give each year’s TBOX a new little twist by adding a “sub-theme” to it. This way, everyone has new costume opportunities, we can make different funny stickers, cool frames, and gear everything around the holiday theme AND that year’s theme.

#TBOX2017 is TBOX CHRISTMAS VACATION!!!