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

WHAT IS TBOX? 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 10am to 8pm, and in 2017 it takes place on December 8th. TBOX has donated over $280,000 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 200,000 attendees through 2018. 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!

Going “WIRE TO WIRE” is a TBOX term which means to GO ALL THE WAY from Start to Finish, from Opening Ceremonies to Closing Ceremonies at Cubby Bear, and do it all with grace, flair, style, and endurance! TBOX is a Marathon and not a sprint… and we want you to indulge, sure, but to pace yourself and enjoy the entire day from 9AM Opening at Cubby Bear thru the Band Performance and reunion back there starting at 8PM (with performance by Chicago band HELLO WEEKEND!)

We will have pieces of GREEN WIRE (for “GO”) at the Opening Ceremonies to tie to your badge.  And we’ll have RED WIRE at the end to tie on too.  It’s an old school sign of great accomplishment if you can pull this off and then send us a picture of you & your badge with both wires.  Note – you’re welcome to stay for just part of the day, come a little late, leave a little early – but we think you’ll have MORE FUN if you go WIRE TO WIRE!!!  We will also have stickers saying “WIRE TO WIRE BABY!!!” which is one of our many unofficial TBOX Slogans! 🙂

How did this start?

In sports, the term “Wire to Wire” means to not only WIN but to be leading the entire time, in first place from the first to last day of the season — 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!

This all started when Mr. Festa recognized people for going WTW at TBOX #3 in 1998.In 2002 we had the idea, “Hey, why don’t we actually GIVE people actual WIRE?”  Green wire at Bar #1, and red wire at Bar #12. Collect both, and you’ve officially gone WIRE TO WIRE BABY. Besides a few people thinking it was licorice and trying to eat it, it became a key part of TBOX tradition.

 

The First "Wire to Wire" Certificates Handed Out by Mr. Festa at TBOX #3 in 1998
The First “Wire to Wire” Certificates Handed Out by Mr. Festa at TBOX #3 in 1998

THE CEREAL

The Short Version:  We Started bringing sugary cereal to TBOX as a joke and as an energy snack… and it turned into a whirlwind of Edible Confetti! And doing a “CEREAL SHOT” has become a TBOX rite of passage.  Check Out our Explicit CEREAL SHOT VIDEO HERE!

Note – For TBOX2018, TBOX Bar Crawls will provide ALL THE CEREAL, and we are asking you not to bring your own this year.  We’ll have a ton on Clark Street, Murphy’s Bleachers, and at selected other locations!

The Long Story, as Told by TBOX Founder Mister Festa…

Back in the late 80s 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!  And today, we have KIDDIE POOLS along Clark Street with Pet Food scoops to professionally serve you! 🙂

Cereal at TBOX Bar Crawl
The Aftermath of Many, Many Cereal Shots at the TBOX Bar Crawl

COSTUMES

Costumes: EVERYBODY Goes All-Out Dressing Up for TBOX – Are You Ready?!?!

2018 marks the 23rd ANNIVERSARY for TBOX… and this year’s theme is TOY BOX – So you can go for the all-out Crazy Christmas Costumes and/or dress like your favorite TOY!   And we’ll leave to your imagination what kind of toy!!! 🙂  People dress in Footie Pajamas, Onesies, Sexy Santas / Sexy Elves, Ugly Sweaters, Christmas Lights, Everything you can imagine! Be creative!

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!

STICKERS

One of the most fun things about TBOX are the TONS of STICKERS we pass out. We have made over 1.5 MILLION stickers at TBOX Bar Crawls since we started – WE ABSOLUTELY LOVE PUTTING FUNNY STICKERS ON PEOPLE!!!   They say things like “TBOX VIRGIN” for first-timers, “I AM SINGLE”, “I AM NOT IN A COMMITTED MONOGAMOUS RELATIONSHIP”, “LET’S MAKE OUT RIGHT NOW”, “I LIKE HAPPY ENDINGS”, and tons of other silly, fun, flirty things to add to the merriment.  Collecting stickers is  a true TBOX Tradition!

How did it start?  We started with the stickers at the 7th TBOX in 2002. The day before, TBOX Founder 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.  You can collect these when you pick up your packet, during the crawl from our TBOX door people or Royal Court Members, and throughout the day.  Go Nuts!!!

TBOX 12 Bars of Xmas Bar Crawl
Plenty of People will be wearing stickers like this at TBOX in Wrigleyville!

We know that you and your friends want to take lots of photos when you come to the 12 Bars of Xmas. Our PHOTO FRAMES are one of the many memories you’ll be getting from TBOX.  We will make them for selected bars and also have people carrying them up and down Clark for you to take pix in.

How did this start? As a youth, TBOX Founder 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, 12 Bars of Xmas, 12 Bars of Christmas, TBOX2018, TBOX2019, TBOX2020, Things to Do in Chicago, Chicago Events, Chicago Bar Crawl, Chicago Pub Crawl, Chicago Bar Crawls, Chicago Pub Crawls, Wrigleyville Bar Crawl, Wrigleyville Pub Crawl, Wrigleyville Bar Crawls, Wrigleyville Pub Crawls, Chicago Party People, Chicago's Party People, Happy Hours, Chicago Happy Hours, Chicago Happy Hour #TBOX #TBOX2018 #12barsofxmas #12barsofchristmas #twelvebarsofchristmas #twelvebarsofxmas #pubcrawl #barcrawl #chicagoevents #chicagonightlife #chicagolife #chicagofun #chicagoliving #chicagogram #chicagogrammers #chicagoblogger #chitown #chicagoland #chicity #thingstodoinchicago #wrigleyville #wrigley #wrigleyfield #chicagochristmas #daydrinking #cosplay #christmasparty #christmascrawl #santacrawl #santacon extras below #budlight #partytime #partypartyparty #bigevent #bucketlist #instachicago #chicagofood #onlyinchicago #costumeparty #costumecrawl #pajamacrawl #pajamaparty #onesies #onesie #onesiecrawl #festaparties #TBOXBarCrawls #chicagodrink #awesome #fun #funevent #bestlife #greatday #goodtimes #unique #bretteldredge #winterfun #winterfestival #winter #holidayparty #holidays #officeparty
The Kodak Picture Spot at Disney World that Gave Mr. Festa the Idea to Invent the TBOX Frames.

BEING A TBOX VIRGIN - AND LOSING YOUR TBOX VIRGINITY

What it means to be a TBOX Virgin – And What We Do For You!

We love our regular customers who come back year after year… but we want to make our FIRST TIMERS feel very welcome!  We know TBOX is a Bucket List experience… so if #TBOX2018 is your first 12 Bars of Xmas – or gasp – your first-ever Bar Crawl!!! – we will give you a “TBOX VIRGIN” Sticker.  This will tell people to treat you gently and give you extra guidance!   And in order to lose your TBOX Virginity, you need to get a Cereal Shot and/or Kiss on the Cheek from one of the TBOX VIP / Royal Court members – OR – get a cereal shot from one of the Kiddie Pools which will be out at TBOX 2018 from 11am-530pm on December 8.  We will take your TBOX Virgin sticker and sign off officially “NOT A VIRGIN ANYMORE!!!”

How Did This Start?  Back in 2002, TBOX Founder 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.  And hey, people think it’s funny to call each other virgins. And that’s how that began!  Make sure to get your TBOX VIRGIN STICKER at CHECK IN!!

TBOX, 12 Bars of Xmas, 12 Bars of Christmas, TBOX2018, TBOX2019, TBOX2020, Things to Do in Chicago, Chicago Events, Chicago Bar Crawl, Chicago Pub Crawl, Chicago Bar Crawls, Chicago Pub Crawls, Wrigleyville Bar Crawl, Wrigleyville Pub Crawl, Wrigleyville Bar Crawls, Wrigleyville Pub Crawls, Chicago Party People, Chicago's Party People, Happy Hours, Chicago Happy Hours, Chicago Happy Hour #TBOX #TBOX2018 #12barsofxmas #12barsofchristmas #twelvebarsofchristmas #twelvebarsofxmas #pubcrawl #barcrawl #chicagoevents #chicagonightlife #chicagolife #chicagofun #chicagoliving #chicagogram #chicagogrammers #chicagoblogger #chitown #chicagoland #chicity #thingstodoinchicago #wrigleyville #wrigley #wrigleyfield #chicagochristmas #daydrinking #cosplay #christmasparty #christmascrawl #santacrawl #santacon extras below #budlight #partytime #partypartyparty #bigevent #bucketlist #instachicago #chicagofood #onlyinchicago #costumeparty #costumecrawl #pajamacrawl #pajamaparty #onesies #onesie #onesiecrawl #festaparties #TBOXBarCrawls #chicagodrink #awesome #fun #funevent #bestlife #greatday #goodtimes #unique #bretteldredge #winterfun #winterfestival #winter #holidayparty #holidays #officeparty
People Losing Their TBOX Virginity with Cereal and Kisses at The Original Chicago Twelve Bars of Xmas Pub Crawl

TBOX VIP'S - 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 2018, please use the CONTACT US form above and say you want to be Royal!

The Royal Court members get VIP Buttons & Passes to skip lines with +3, participate onstage in the Opening & Closing Ceremonies, get their own stickers to hand out, get to join the infamous secret Royal Team Building exercise dive bar school bus crawl, get a super-cool Royalty t-shirt and get to enjoy the whole wonderful world of being a Festa Partier!   You will see all these people with their Giant VIP Buttons and License Plates – there will be abotu 75 – and make sure to get your picture with them, get a sticker from them, and they can sign off on your TBOX Virgin Sticker.  We have room this year for some new people so we will tell you how to join if you’re interested!!

How Did This All Start?   When we started drawing numbers on people’s hands to count them… then when we got badges with numbers, we started giving the low, single and double digit “prestige” numbers to our friends and favorite, most loyal TBOXers. (Like a Vanity License Plate) – and we started calling the first 30, then 40, then 69 people… “The Royal Court” – like at a prom. We started making special stickers and buttons and VIP privileges for these people, and they know are part of our Royal Family and help us and hang out with us year-round!

The First Royal Family Photo for TBOX 2007

Royal Court Team-Building Dive Bar Pub Crawl Photo at the Bob Inn in Logan Square, November 2016

OPENING & CLOSING CEREMONIES

The Opening Ceremonies are one of the FUNNEST parts of TBOX – we highly encourage you to get up early and come to Cubby Bear – they start ONE HOUR BEFORE the rest of TBOX at 9AM – we fill Cubby Bear and throw TONS OF CEREAL into the crowd, give out the best stickers, have beach balls and balloons and great music, and get all the Wire to Wire, Hardcore, all-day partiers toghether in one place before we spread out thru the 40 bars the rest of the day.  It’s an amazing experience to be eating Froot Loops and Drinking Bud Light in your pajamas with 1500 of your closest friends at 9AM on a Saturday Morning… better than cartoons!!!

We have all the TBOX Royal Court / VIP members there for you to meet, take pix with, and get stickers and cereal shots from, and we do the official cutting of the wire to start off the day, like how the tap the keg at Oktoberfest.  You don’t wanna miss it!

And… after 10 hours hitting as many bars as you can around Wrigley — at 8pm come back to Cubby Bear for the CLOSING CEREMONIES!!  We acknowledge everyone who has gone WIRE TO WIRE, and perform a giant singalong onstage with our most favorite TBOX Drinking Songs…. MY OWN WORST ENEMY (Listen Here)ALL THE SMALL THINGS (Listen Here) – and WONDERCRAWL !!!  If you survive the day, there’s nothing like coming back to finish off the night where you started so many hours before.  This year, the band HELLO WEEKEND will be performing – just for TBOX Wristband people, immediately starting at 8pm!

How Did This Start??  Back in 2002-2005, Mr. Festa and friends who lived in Wrigley would start at his apartment on Newport & Clark, and have a small ceremony with Tiki Torches under the El Tracks, the march to Bar #1 singing the Olympic Theme.  Then, Starting in 2007, Cubby Bear invited us to do the whole thing onstage, where we have done it ever since (but without open flames!!)

Introducing our #1 VIP Guest, Harold, at the 2009 Opening Ceremonies.

The 2004 Opening Ceremonies, With Torches, Arriving at Bar #1.

Honoring our 3 VIP Crawlers at TBOX 2015, Who had been to all 20 TBOX's!
Honoring Fred, Fuji, and Peckham at the TBOX Opening Ceremonies

BADGES AND NUMBERS

At #TBOX2018, everyone will get a super-cool laminated souvenir badge to wear the day of and keep afterwards. Although the Wristband is what you need for admission, we have given all crawlers a badge as part of their package since 2002. It will have a map and the logo of the event, along with a sequential number. What’s that for???

How did this start?? Back in 1998 at TBOX #3, we went from about 60 to over 350 people. Shocked by the turnout, we decided to start writing numbers on people’s hands to count them. Soon, it became like, a THING, to get your hand written on, and then, it became a THING to get a cool number – ASK US IF YOU WANT A LOW (Double Digit) NUMBER – we will try to save you one!!!

Since it wasn’t feasible to keep writing on people’s hands, we started printing and laminating badges for people at TBOX #7 in 2002. We may have snuck into some friends’ office and depleted their color inkjets :)… and may have “borrowed” a few laminating machines from some other offices, but we got it done! And starting in 2007, our sponsors have made us the beautiful badges we have today.

YEARLY THEMES

Why Does TBOX, Which is a Theme, Have Another Theme? I’m Confused! 

LOL Totally understandable, but here’s the short answer… we always like to go the Extra Mile and make TBOX the most creative experience we can!  Since we strive to be continually innovati ve 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

  • For 2018, we have the awesome theme of TOY BOX – it’s all about Toys… dress as a Toy.. and we’re having a Charity Toy Drive to accompany the Bar Crawl!
  • TBOX2017 was Christmas Vacation. This was super-fun! We hoped for more girls in bikinis and guys in Speedos, but winter didn’t cooperate…
  • TBOX2016 was TBOX The Wedding.  We Fake-Married a couple onstage at Opening Ceremonies who’d met at TBOX. Over 100 Couples have met at TBOX and Gotten Married!!!  You Could be Next!  (We have no stats on divorces, but we do know the Birth Rate spikes in Chicago 9 months later… hmmmm….  and Honestly we may have scared off a lot of dudes with this one. Lesson learned!
  • TBOX2015 was TBOX The Motion Picture – Movie-Themed.. this was pretty awesome. Leonardo di Caprio actually showed up! Or at least a guy who looked JUST like him.
  • TBOX2014 was TBOX The Zoo, and everyone dressed (and some behaved) as animals.
  • TBOX2013 was AIR TBOX, Airline and Flight-Themed. Alot of people got frisked.
  • TBOX2012 was TBOXOPOLY and a few people went to jail, but nobody got free parking.
  • TBOX2011 was CAMP TBOX … summer camp themed.  Everything great about camp, but no mosquitoes!
  • TBOX2010 was TBOX AMUSEMENT PARK, “It’s a Crawl World After All” and it was Theme-Park Themed!
  • TBOX2009 was our first real theme, High School Yearbook, the CLASS OF 2009, and we had a graduation ceremony, recess, homeroom, everything school related.
  • TBOX2008 and before… were just TBOX!
X