The First TBOX… Mr. Festa Drinks Alone (1996)

The History of TBOX – The First 12 Bars of Xmas in 1996

Christopher Festa holds the first “12 Bars of Christmas” pub crawl in Lincoln Park, Chicago, mainly for his co-workers from Accenture (then known as Andersen Consulting). The very first bar is Goose Island on Clybourn, where no one shows up for the first 45 Minutes, and Chris has to drink alone.

The Following is told in the first person voice of TBOX Founder Christopher Festa…

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“The entire reason I started TBOX was to have a party without my friends trashing my one bedroom apartment… and to meet girls, and that’s pretty much it… There was no master plan.”

IT ALL STARTED BACK IN December 1996, a time when almost nobody had a cell phone and very few had e-mail…there was no Facebook, no Twitter, no texting. It wasn’t nearly as easy as it is today to spread the word about parties and events, and if you wanted to meet somebody somewhere, you had to BE ON TIME at a certain place. How did we ever survive?

For those who knew me as a youngster, I used to have a little party from 1994-97 in my Lincoln Park apartment called “Festapalooza” – but, within a few years, with my apartment being trashed, and threats from the landlord and neighbors, it was time to look at doing something OUTSIDE of the house. I’d heard of this “12 Bars Of Christmas” idea… so I put the word out to my Accenture (then Andersen Consulting) co-workers, and the date was set… Saturday, December 14, 1996. I arrived at Goose Island Clybourn promptly at 4pm for Bar Number One, and…

No one showed up.The bar was empty save for 10 or 12 people I didn’t know. I sat ALONE until 4:45. Then, two of my friends showed up… Don and Ty. Fortuitously, I asked a bystander to snap what would become a historic photo — the Zapruder Film of TBOX — of the 3 of us holding up one finger symbolizing “Bar Number One” – and TBOX had begun…

At the second bar, about 15 other people were waiting, and I felt like this thing might be a success after all. That 2nd bar, by the way, was called “US Beer Company” and is now a Sleep Number Mattress Store.

By the end, we had OVER 60 PEOPLE, and the bars included McGee’s, Kelly’s, Glascott’s, Kelsey’s, Charlie’s Ale House, a few others, and ended at a bar on Lincoln called “Tailgators” which is now called “Kendall’s”. There were no badges, or t-shirts, no

TBOX #2 – Why Not Do It Again? (1997)

Chris Festa decides to do the 12 Bars of Xmas a second time, this time starting at McGee’s on Webster Street in Lincoln Park. This time, more than 60 people attend!

The Following is told in the first person voice of TBOX Founder Christopher Festa…

I didn’t think much about TBOX after I had the first one in 1996, and it was not AT ALL clear whether I would do it again. It was just another of the many little pub crawls I put on for fun every few months for my Accenture co–workers.

Friday, September 12, 1997, also marked the Final Festapalooza Party, and right after that, my company sent me to work in Europe and I thought I’d be gone indefinitely. But I ended up being home from Thanksgiving to New Years, and just thought, “Hey, I might as well have that Christmas bar crawl again.” So, from a hotel room in London, I drafted the TBOX2 schedule and sent it out via Interoffice “Electronic Mail.” On that Saturday in 1997, starting at McGee’s, TBOX2 kicked off and was a raging success with about 60 people, and we even wore some Santa Hats! Among the bars we visited were: Charlie’s Ale House, Jack Sullivan’s, Glascott’s, The Store, Beaumont, and Kelly’s. It was a nice little crawl… would we do it again?

TBOX #3 – A Great Leap Forward (1998)

First Bar of the 3rd TBOX, Goose Island on Clybourn, 12/5/98

In 1998, it was an incredibly, unseasonably warm day in Chicago, and attendance increased SIX-FOLD to over 350 people with temperatures near 70F the entire day. For the 12 Bars of Xmas, this was a giant leap forward!

The Following is narrated in the first person by TBOX Founder Christopher Festa…

I was back in the USA in the Fall of ’98, and was excited for the 3rd TBOX. More people had e-mail, the word spread, and great things were in the air. I woke up that Saturday around 1pm. Can you imagine? TBOX didn’t start until 4PM! You could sleep late and not miss a thing. And that year we had a one-day freak heatwave and it was SEVENTY-ONE DEGREES – which brought out a ton more people!

As we arrived at Bar #1, about 100 people were there already – at the time, it was mind-blowing. And it just popped into my head, “Let’s count how many people are here!” How? “Let’s write on everyone’s hand with a marker!” And so, one of the first great TBOX traditions, the “Numbers”, was born.

We ended up with about 350 partiers. The route included Kincade’s, The Store, Deacon Brodie’s, Corner Pocket, Hidden Shamrock, and a few other Lincoln Park places. We signed certificates for people who had gone “wire to wire” — the first time that came about, and the first documented use of “TBOX” (see below)

The Original “Wire to Wire” Certificates Handed Out by Mr. Festa at TBOX #3 in 1998. First Documented Usage of the word “TBOX”

TBOX #4 – Taking Over Wrigleyville (1999)

Scene from the 4th TBOX in 1999

By 1999, the 12 Bars of Xmas Pub Crawl had grown too big for the smaller bars of Lincoln Park – so Mr. Festa decided to move the whole operation up to Wrigleyville… and the rest became history!

The Following is narrated first person by TBOX Founder Christopher Festa

TBOX 1998 was awesome, and since I expected at least as many people the next year, I knew that the tiny taverns if Lincoln Park would no longer hold us, so I decided to move up to the land of big bars – WRIGLEYVILLE. Back in the 90s mind you, Wrigleyville was not nearly the nightlife destination it is today. Basically, it was Cubs Pre-Game / Cubs Game / Post-Game / Go Somewhere else. But it was starting to emerge, and I realized it would be a great place to move TBOX.

 

A Young Mr. Festa at TBOX 1999

TBOX #4 was billed as “The last pub crawl of the 20th Century” – because hey, everyone was so worried about Y2K, who knew if beer would even be available after New Year’s?? I decided too to move the start time from 4pm back to 3PM, a time creep that culminated with the 8AM starts from 2013-2016 (it’s back to 10AM now).

TBOX4 began at the now-long-gone LAKEVIEW LINKS, then to Sheffield’s, and on to some of the familiar bars of Wrigley which are part of TBOX to this day, such as Redmond’s, Cubby Bear, and Sluggers. TBOX4 ended at ABNER’S YARD, which is now Mullen’s. It was a VERY HAPPY and FESTIVE event, and the first where I had my own little website to promote and put up pictures. We had about 650 people — still counted with markers by hand — but despite the success, I thought it might be the last… at that time, I thought it was likely I’d be married within the year, and that I might be moving permanently to Silicon Valley to become a dot-com millionaire. But I was just in time for the bubble…

TBOX #5 – The Wilderness Years (2000)

Compared to December 1999, things kind of sucked for me a year later. I was working 14-hour days for the now-struggling dot-com in the least exciting place in the world at the time, San Jose, California. The girl was gone, and I was getting to come home to Chicago less and less. But emails started to trickle in, saying… HEY FESTA, WHAT DAY IS TBOX? So the show had to go on.

I made one trip home in November to set things up and used this other new thing called “EVITE” to spread the word. Then I flew back in the day before, and we ended up topping 950 people. TBOX had started taking on a life of its own. And yes, we were still writing the numbers on everyone’s hands, which by this time was growing tedious for me. And, I had to fly back to California Monday, and leave all the memories behind, again, not knowing what the future would hold.

 

TBOX #6 – Carrying on During Hard Times (2001)

One of the Only Photos from TBOX 2001

In 2001, TBOX carried on for a 6th Year despite Mr. Festa temporarily living in California, and the after-effects and sad atmosphere that remained from 9/11. But the show went on…

The following is written in first person as narrated by TBOX Founder Christopher Festa

By TBOX time in 2001, I was now unemployed, another relationship had ended, and I had given up my Chicago apartment. I had taken a 2-month solo cross-country road trip over the summer and in the fall, I was planning a trip to Europe to further help “find myself” for a few months and use my last frequent flyer miles. Unfortunately, and it’s an absolutely true story, I bought my ticket to leave on Tuesday, 9/11/2001 – I was all packed and ready to go… but the trip never happened. If I’d left one day earlier, my entire life would have been different… By late October, I found myself house-sitting for my friend L.A. Michelle, spending my days at the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf in Santa Monica, half-heartedly looking for a new job. With the cloud of 9/11 hanging over the country, I wasn’t thinking much about TBOX, but the emails started to come in again – WHAT DAY IS TBOX? And if I canceled it, the terrorists would win, right? So TBOX #6 was on!

I flew in to Chicago Thursday night before TBOX to crash on my friend’s couch and then was going to do some planning on Friday, but at 6am I started getting calls from strangers asking about TBOX. Unbeknownst to me, it had been listed in this new web site called Metromix, with my personal cell phone number, so I spent all day answering the phone! We ended up with over 1,200 people, and I wrote the first numbers on my friends’ hands at the Pre-TBOX Brunch we had. And it was there that having

TBOX #7 – The Triumphant Return (2002)

 

In 2002, Mr. Festa returned full time to Chicago, moved to Wrigleyville, and re-dedicated himself to making TBOX a blowout extraordinaire! The 7th TBOX featured the first badges, first frame, first stickers, and first cereal shots!

The First TBOX Badge and First TBOX Frame, 2002

View All The Photos from TBOX7 on Facebook, Click Here.

In 2001, TBOX carried on for a 6th Year despite Mr. Festa temporarily living in California, and the after-effects and sad atmosphere that remained from 9/11. But the show went on…

The following is written in first person as narrated by TBOX Founder Christopher Festa.

In the Spring of ’02, I was still in exile in California, until a few fortuitous twists of fate not only brought me back to Chicago on May 8th of that year, but to a new home, house-sitting for my friend Craig in the heart of Wrigleyville, at Clark and Newport. Coming back to Chicago, I sincerely wondered if anyone would remember me or if I was too old to keep partying. But everywhere I went, people yelled “Hey, it’s the TBOX Guy! When is TBOX this year? I had a blast at TBOX! I met you at TBOX!” It was pretty cool.

The First Cereal Shot Ever Recorded, December 2002

Moving from 2,000 miles away from Wrigleyville to 20 feet from my doorstep, I was determined with a VENGEANCE to make TBOX7 the BIGGEST and BEST EVER, a blowout of epic proportions. And I might have kind of lost my job because of how much time I was spending on it…

With 10 people staying at my house, we all went out the night before, where I strenuously avoided doing shots, and managed to get in bed by 1am. A month earlier, thanks to my friends Amir and “Red-Haired” Michelle, we had decided to try this new thing… making badges for TBOX Participants… and in my living room, my friends and I used the hand-laminating machines to prepare over 1,500 badges, then hole-punch them, and cut pieces of yarn to put them around peoples’ necks! Thanks especially to my friend Kate who ran to Walgreens to buy more string in the middle of the day! This started a long-running trend of me putting all my friends to work 🙂

The First TBOX Badge in 2002

Once the badges were made, a question immediately came up… who should get Badge #1? Like NASA having to decide between Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to be the first man on the moon, I made the call to reward my good friend, LA Michelle, with being the first woman to be number one at TBOX, and the first person ever with the Badge #1. Sadly, despite numerous pleadings, she has not been back to TBOX since, as of 2011. She told me she wanted to go out on top, and since you can’t be #1 twice, this may have been her last TBOX…

LA Michelle, The First Badged
TBOX Number One

TBOX7 dawned to a crisp and sunny day. As we gathered the last of the badges and other preparations, we began two traditions that would last through TBOX11:

1) Anyone who wanted could meet at my house beforehand

TBOX #8 – How Steve Bartman Saved TBOX (2003)

In 2003, the Chicago Cubs and the infamous Steve Bartman played a huge role in the future of TBOX. In the pre-2016 World Series days, Wrigley was filled with angst… but TBOX was there to fill the void.

Click here to View all the Pictures from TBOX #8 on Facebook

The following is written in first person as narrated by TBOX Founder Christopher Festa.

Flush with the success of 2002, I began planning TBOX in mid 2003. But as Cubs fans know, that was THE YEAR we were going to the World Series, until Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS. It felt very different than 2016 when we really did win it. The ’03 team came out of the blue, was suddenly in the playoffs and then one step away from the World Series. It was like a dream.

In May of that year, again freshly unemployed, I decided to forget about finding a new job, and start t-shirt company. I had this idea to make a shirt with the slogan “IN DUSTY WE TRUSTY” – to rally the new manager Dusty Baker. And by the fall, the shirt had caught on like wildfire. I got to meet Dusty, I was all over the news, and selling tee shirts by the wheelbarrow!

As the Cubs went into the NLDS, “IN DUSTY WE TRUSTY” had become THE rallying cry for the ’03 Cubs and manager Dusty Baker. TBOX was on the back burner as we planned for a WORLD SERIES in WRIGLEYVILLE and I was selling shirts like CRAZY and blowing up all over the media. I was on top of the world… right up until the moment Steve Bartman’s infamous miscue sent the cursed Cubs careening toward disaster.

Steve Bartman Kills Cubs, Saves TBOX

I know so much has been said and written about this poor guy, and I hold no ill will against him, but I believe he hurt my interests personally as much as anyone. Not only did my Cubs blow it, but my business was ruined (all the millionaire ballplayers still got paid…) So rather than selling a million more shirts in a sweaty, ecstatic Wrigleyville lovepile, I let myself feel sorry for myself a while with the rest of Cubs Nation, and spent 3 weeks in bed with the shades drawn, unshaven, surrounded with empty pizza boxes,my business destroyed. What now?!?! I had tasted the fruits of entrepreneurial success, then had them swatted away. I really didn’t want to get a “real job” again. And sometime before Thanksgiving I said, the words that changed my life popped into my head…

“Hey, What if I charged people something to come to TBOX?”

And from there forward, thanks to the engine of capitalism, TBOX really started on its way. As you are all now my customers, it is my sacred duty and job to serve you the best I can at all times! So when your on your 17th beer, wearing pajamas, covered in

TBOX #9 – Growing and Growing (2004)

The Schedule Card for TBOX 2004 – RIP to Hi-Tops, Johnny O’Hagan’s, Mullen’s, Tryst, Moxie, Nisei, & Sheffield’s!

 

TBOX kept growing and got even bigger in 2004. It was the first year we had a customer service desk and a headquarters the day of the event in Wrigleyville, and grew to 2300 people!

The following is told in the first person by TBOX Founder Christopher Festa:

I group TBOX in 2003 & 2004 together in my mind because they were my first two years of being in business for myself, and I was still working out of my living room in Wrigleyville. It was sometime in 2004 that we had the brilliant idea:“Why don’t we set up a desk at one of the bars and make that the TBOX HQ and Customer Service Desk?” That had never occurred to us before, but obviously, we have it to this day.

The Start of TBOX #9 in 2004 – We had a different beer sponsor then :O

We grew to about 2,300 – and though I still consider it part of the “Middle Ages” or “Growing Pains” of TBOX, it really did go much smoother and more pleasantly. TBOX9 started at Sheffield’s, ended at the old Hi-Tops, and we had the Opening Ceremonies under the El Tracks on Newport, followed by the Tiki Torch procession. The Blarney Stone customer service desk was a revolution, the badges were back to being a normal, manageable size, the round robin was working like a charm, and… it was all really “Locking In”, but I still didn’t feel like it was “all there”. The future of TBOX, and what it would become, were still ahead of us…

TBOX #10 – The Last Completely Innocent Year (2005)

The 10th Annual TBOX in 2005 was awesome… it was the last completely innocent year for the 12 Bars of Xmas… but many of the things we enjoy today had their roots in this year.

The following is told in the first person by TBOX Founder Christopher Festa…

I’d have to say that TBOX #10 was was the first year that I felt like things were really ALL coming together. In some ways, it was the last truly innocent, Mom & Pop TBOX. It was the last year we all fit comfortably into one main route, the last year of the torch procession, of the opening ceremonies under the El tracks, and the last year that TBOX started at Sheffield’s before completely becoming a “Wrigleyville Circuit” – it was in many ways, the best of times.

As for firsts, it was the first year of having The Bullhorn, and the first year of Full-Color Badges that I really liked. And even though the term “Royal Court” would not be in full, official use until the next year, there was a lot of buzz about being a “VIP” and getting a “Low Number”, and in general, there was a buzz and anticipation about TBOX that wasn’t there before.

We ended up with over 2,700 people, and it was glorious, ending at Sluggers, screaming along with the hits of the 80’s into the bullhorn, it was a happy, happy time. The only questions were… could it get any bigger, or any better?

TBOX #11 – The First Modern TBOX (2006)

Festive Girls at TBOX #11 in 2006

The 11th TBOX in 2006 was the first truly “MODERN” TBOX – all in Wrigleyville, it was a circuit, it was sponsored by a major beer company and the RedEye newspaper, we had professionally printed badges… and reached 3,400 people. We were growing up!

The following is told first person by TBOX Owner Christopher Festa…

2006 topped 3,400 people and was the first year we moved to the “All-Wrigley” format, taking place entirely between Roscoe and Grace streets along Clark and Sheffield. It was probably the first TBOX that “felt” like what TBOX was today. It was still just 1/6 or 1/7 of today’s size, but it was getting there as being a “Destination” Chicago Party Event!

“Lemon Boy” – One of the Great Personalities of the Middle Years of TBOX

Some other Firsts and Lasts at TBOX 2006…

  • It was the first year of the long, rectangular “Backstage Pass” badges we use to this today. And…
  • The last time that I (ahem) “Borrowed” the Super Expensive Color Printer in the Middle of the Night at one of my friends’ workplaces to print them all off, and then cut them and laminate them myself…
  • It was the first OFFICIAL year for the Royal Court, but I had made these ridiculous giant cutout numbers for people to wear, that almost all broke off.
  • It was the first year I had TBOX INTERNS to attend to my needs and follow me around all day – Michelle and Virginia were awesome!
  • People were REALLY starting to say, “Hey, I better wear a costume… and the more outrageous, the better…”

 

Mr. Festa with Giant Royal Court Numbers in 2006

  • And it was the first year that people started calling me “MR. FESTA” – just because a friend innocently made me a fast food name tag that said “MR. FESTA” — and it just caught on like wildfire.

And the Countdown to TBOX… that’s not new! We unearthed this email from the archives below!

TBOX #12 – Over 4,000 People, and The First Opening & Closing Ceremonies (2007)

One of the First Great Group Costumes, TBOX 2007

TBOX #12 – Twelve Times Twelve – The Golden Birthday of TBOX, was an amazing year where we topped 4,000 people for the first time.

The Following is told in the first person by TBOX Founder Christopher Festa:

Things were really getting amazing by 2007. This was the first time the Opening and Closing Ceremonies were held onstage at the World Famous Cubby Bear, which has graciously hosted us every year since then. It’s amazing – they completely give us the run of the place… we can go nuts onstage, show videos, sing, and completely douse the entire place with cereal… all right across from Wrigley Field. It’s incredible!

This was also the First Year of the Royal Court LICENSE PLATES, which became a tradition for VIPS. And – for the VIP Badge Numbers – We had THREE Number Ones as the VIP Guests of Honor – 1a, 1b, and 1c, Goze, Bill, and Biggins, three of our closest friends who’d been to almost every TBOX. Yes it is possible – you can get married, have kids, move to the suburbs, and STILL get a hall pass to come to TBOX! If you only get one a year, make it for TBOX!!

TBOX #12 Sergeant Pepper inspired logo with the VIP Royal Court Members – And the 2007 Frame, The Last Handmade One

The Official “FIRST CEREAL SHOT” Onstage at Cubby Bear at the First Opening Ceremonies, 2007

One of the FIRST Royal License Plates, Covered with Homemade Stickers made from Mr. Festa’s Las

TBOX #13 – TBOX Jumps to 6,700 People! (2008)

 

The 13th TBOX in 2008 jumped from 4,200 to 6,700 people, and our reputation began to precede us! TBOX was really becoming “a thing” in Chicago, and we were scrambling to keep up with the growing crowds.

The following is told in First Person by TBOX Founder Christopher Festa..

For the 13th TBOX, I decided to change the naming to “TBOX2008” and use the YEAR instead of the Number going forward. Plus, you know… Superstitiion! Thanks to increasing word of mouth and publicity from Metromix, CLTV, Chicago Magazine, and other outlets, attendance jumped almost 60% to about 6,700 for TBOX2008! It really rocked, and for the first time, people were saying, “Hey, you should do this more often than once a year!” That’s why our separate company Festa Parties was formed, and that’s where “BeadQuest,” “Cover Your Bases” and the other crawls came from, starting in 2009. So much for working one day a year… also, we had our first professionally printed Picture Frame… no more handwriting and cutting it out with an Exacto Knife!! 🙂

TBOX #14 – The First Themed TBOX -The Class of… (2009)

The 4 Teams of TBOX 2009

TBOX 2009 had over 7,000 people, and it was our first Themed TBOX – The Class of 2009 High School Yearbook Theme. If you missed the Prom Queens, the Jocks, the Nerds, the Bullies, P.E., and all the other great things about school, TBOX2009 had it… but with Beer!

 

The following is told in first person by TBOX Founder Christopher Festa…

Over 7,200 people participated in TBOX 2009, Festa’s 14th Annual Twelve Bars Of Xmas Pub Crawl in Wrigleyville, Chicago. Taking place on December 12, this was the BIGGEST TBOX to date! Starting at The Cubby Bear at 8:30am, and ending at The Cubby Bear at Closing Time, it was a beautiful day of winter madness, crazy costumes, manic energy, 73,000 stickers, cereal absolutely everywhere, spectacular opening ceremonies, dramatic closing ceremonies, and a total blast for over 18 hours across 36 bars, with people coming in from all over the USA and the world to go WIRE TO WIRE and enjoy what has become one of Chicago’s most beloved annual events.

TBOX2009 was the first to feature a fully-developed “THEME” – a High School Yearbook Theme in which everyone was encouraged to dress as their favorite high school character or cliche. Participants were split into 4 round-robin routes named after famous fictional high schools… Rydell High, Save Ferris, Ridgemont High, and Bayside Tigers.

The TBOX Opening Ceremonies had really started becoming elaborate at this time, with a countdown video, attendance bell ringing at the Cubby Bear at 11am, and a packed house of onlookers awaiting “Principal Festa to Address the Student Body in 5 Minutes.”

Immediately following, on every TV Screen, a giant countdown clock counted the hundredths of a second until the ceremonies were to begin in 5 minutes. When the final bell rang, 4 dignitaries… Fuji, Biggins, Tracey K, and Sarah K… walked to the Corners of the Stage with Dark Sunglasses. Then, Mr. Festa and the six TBOX Interns walked to the Center of the Stage and, as music played, they flipped signs reading TBOX IS HERE / TBOX IS NOW / ZERO DAYS TILL TBOX!

Cereal showered through the audience, and then, with POUR SOME SUGAR ON ME playing, each of the four TBOX CLASS OF 2009 “High Schools” marched out one by one as each Royal Court Member was DOUSED with cereal. Once they all took their places onstage, Mr. Festa made the announcement, set to the Prince Intro Organ Music,

Cereal showered through the audience, and then, with POUR SOME SUGAR ON ME playing, each of the four TBOX CLASS OF 2009 “High Schools” marched out one by one as each Royal Court Member was DOUSED with cereal. Once they all took their places onstage, Mr. Festa made the announcement, set to the Prince Intro Organ Music,

Then, The TBOX2009 NUMBER ONE, Harold, burst through the Gift Wrap Paper and was smothered from all sides with over 50 boxes of cereal as “Let’s Go Crazy” blasted from the speakers! And then… after partying at Cubby Bear from 830am to Noon, the four teams split up and went on their routes around Wrigleyville, to do the crawl and prepare to re-unite 10 hours later!

We had a lot of fun assigning our Royal Court “roles” in the high school and putting them all on the back of the TBOX 2009 Program.

The TBOX 2009 “Class Schedule” Card

The First TBOX Gym Bags, from Sailor Jerry… that we almost never, ever ran out of!

TBOX #15 – It’s A Crawl World After All… Over 10,000 (2010)

The TBOX 2010 Amusement Park Logo… It’s a Crawl World After All!

In 2010, TBOX finally broke the 10,000 attendance barrier, thanks to word of mouth everywhere around Chicago, and making the front page of the RedEye newspaper on Friday, the day before TBOX. It was chaos, it was a whirlwind, and It was a Crawl World, After All!

The Following is told in First Person by TBOX Founder Christopher Festa…

TBOX 2010 topped 10,000 people! And on the advice of our handlers, we will henceforth be “vague” and “evasive” about specific attendance figures. Got it? Also, if and until our reality show hits the air, I will be unable to provide the juicier personal details of what happened before and after this TBOX, but if you find me and buy me a beer, you never know…

For Year 15, we pulled out ALL THE STOPS, the hype built like CRAZY all Summer and Fall, and on the day before TBOX, the Chicago Red Eye featured us on its FRONT PAGE and a 2-page centerfold spread.

 

RedEye Newspaper Cover about TBOX… talking about how much money they thought we were making… juuuust perfect….

As for the theme – I was taking a “long walk on the beach” in Florida earlier that year, thinking about TBOX, and “It’s A Crawl World After All!” popped into my head, and a few minutes later, the Amusement Park theme. I used to go to Disney World all the time growing up (I really miss Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, by the way…) and was voted in high school, “Most Likely to Open Up an Amusement Park Themed After Myself” – so this really all made sense.

 

The Rooty, Tooty, Fresh, and Fruity TBOX 2010 Schedule with Teams Lucky Charm Land, Froot Loop Topia, Trix Town, and Crunchberry Kingdom

The crawl was fantastic from wire to wire. The survivors re-assembled at 10:15pm at Cubby Bear for Closing Ceremonies, we declared that the TBOX VIRGINS were NO LONGER VIRGINS, and we sang “I HAD THE TIME OF MY LIFE AND I OWE IT ALL TO YOU” – accompanied by the rocking band, Rod Tuffcurls and the Bench Press – what a day! 2010 would be hard to top… but that’s what we do!

The Royal Court Members in 2010 were all Rides!

TBOX #16 – Camp TBOX… Over 16,000! (2011)

TBOX 2011 increased all the way to 16,000 people! Clark Street Closed… We had Make-Out Tents in every bar… They Re-Routed the 22 Clark Bus… it was 15 degrees but that didn’t stop anyone from having an amazing time. “CAMP TBOX” took us up yet another notch!

 

The following is told in first person by TBOX Founder Christopher Festa…

I can’t remember exactly when or where it came to me, but the idea of SUMMER CAMP as the theme for TBOX2011 seemed just perfect, and it really was. Our attendance jumped more than 50%, with our Official Motto, “So This One Time, at TBOX…”

This time, we divided our schedule into six “Bunks” to spread our happy campers out among the bars… The Crunchy Captains, The Kooky Cocoas, The Loopy Froots, The Trix-A-Canoes, The Apple Jacks & Jills, and The Fiber Flies.

By 1pm, for the first time in TBOX History, the authorities decided to close down Clark Street to auto traffic and reroute the CTA Clark 22 Bus.

As added touches for the day of crawling, we installed “Make Out Tents” in ten of the bars, along with Camp Games like Kiddie Pools lined with Twister Mats. We distributed over 110,000 Stickers, “took care of” 7,000 TBOX Virgins, shot an estimated 30,000 Boxes of Cereal, and again benefited Chicago Dance Marathon – who helped serve as Bar Hosts, stamping passports, handing out stickers, Taking Pictures in the Frames, and giving cereal shots.

 

RedEye Newspaper Cover about TBOX… talking about how much money they thought we were making… juuuust perfect….

Since 2007, TBOX has begun and ended with ceremonies taking place onstage at the Cubby Bear. The twist for 2011 was – Sing-A-Long Karaoke Campfire Songs with TBOX Lyrics, which we had a great time with!

Our Countdown Video featured trippy clips from cereal commercials set to psychedelic music. And you just can’t top 2,000 people yelling “You Gotta Fight For Your Right to TBOX” set to videos of the Trix Rabbit…

For TBOX 2011, our friend Big Jason, at his 12th TBOX, was our VIP and Official Badge “Number One” for the day. We officially named him #1 in late August, ambushing him on his front lawn in Downers Grove, setting up a tent, and jumping out on him. You can’t pay for this type of entertainment!

Big Jason being named the VIP Guest of Honor for Camp TBOX 2011

 

TBOX #17 – TBOXOPOLY – The Total Blowout (2012)

TBOX 2012, “TBOXOPOLY” – was billed as the world’s most exciting live-action board game. We won’t go into all the details here… find Mr. Festa at the next Happy Hour if you want the full story… but let’s just say that the Trix hit the Fan. It was an UNBELIEVABLE, AMAZING PARTY and really showed us all how big and crazy this pub crawl could be!

The following is told in first person by TBOX Founder Christopher Festa…

TBOXOPOLY reached the theoretical maximum of what a bar crawl could be. We poured into the streets and took over Wrigleyville… and that’s why you now see us having the barricades, and cleanup crews, and portable toilets, and extra extra security just like all the big festivals have.

I learned a lot in a short time about how much time I was going to have spend on the non-fun stuff in addition to the fun stuff, but that’s why we’ve still been able to bring you TBOX every year since, 23 years going strong, and we have no plans to ever stop!!

The TBOXOPOLY Game Board issued to all participants is shown below. The event game board split our 43 participating venues into 4 color groups – Red, Green, Blue, and Yellow, to move our crowd around, and the goal was to collect game piece stickers from at least three bars in each group! Winners received a free ticket to BeadQuest and a gift certificate from one of our participating venues. And the middle of the board featured the 69 Members of the TBOX2012 Royal Court!

TBOX #18 – AIR TBOX (2013)

TBOX continued strong into 2013 after the blowout of 2012. Despite a blizzard, the 18th Annual Original Twelve Bars of Xmas — “AIR TBOX” – took flight in the Winter Wonderland of Wrigleyville!

The TBOX 2013 Royal Court

The following is told in first person by TBOX Founder Christopher Festa… After getting everything all set after the TBOX 2012 blowout, we had a great year of BeadQuest, Cover Your Bases, and Everyone Gets Lei’s, and in the spring announced the Airline Theme – AIR TBOX!! People dressed as pilots, stewardesses, Top Gun, and everything in the friendly skies and having to do with flying. The Bars were destinations, divided into Terminals T, B, O, and X, and in the first year of us having a mobile app, we had people Check In to destinations around the map to go Wire to Wire. TBOX2013 was the absolute snowiest TBOX EVER. We had a huge blizzard overnight, dumping 2 feet of snow over Wrigleyville. It was pretty messy and sloppy, but did not slow down our thousands of crawlers. Also, for me unfortunately, it was the ONLY TIME in all my years of crawling I was sick. Someone came in the office the Monday before and gave me the flu, and I could only make it until about 5 O’Clock… the only time I didn’t make it Wire to Wire. But the show went on without me and it was an amazing time! Thank you to all my amazing friends for helping me get through it!!

Our Big Donation to the Lakeview Pantry Charity!!

The TBOX2013 Royal Court Team Building Pre-Crawl — atthe Bean in Chicago!

The Cereal Aftermath…

Thanks Golden Crisp, our First Cereal Sponsor!

TBOX #19 – The TBOX Zoo (2014)

In the Summer of 2014, we were thrilled to announce a 4-year partnership with Chicago’s Lakeshore Beverage and Anheuser-Busch, naming Bud Light the Official Sponsor of TBOX and all Festa Parties events through 2017. And from TBOX2014 forward, we featured popular Bud Light, Chicago’s Own Goose Island Craft Beers, the Lime-A-Rita family, and other great specials for our customers.

TBOX 2014 began with Opening Ceremonies at Cubby Bear for the 8th Straight Year, with Mr. Festa leading the crowd in a singalong of “What Does the Fox Say?” as we threw a net over our 12 new Royal Court Members and sacrificed them to the audience with a shower of cereal. And 12 Hours and 48 Bars later, the band Stache rocked the closing ceremonies as we sang along to TBOX favorites My Own Worst Enemy and All The Small Things.

TBOX #20 – TBOX, The Motion Picture (2015)

The 20th Anniversary TBOX in 2015 was Awesome!!! MOVIE THEMED!!! We made it our platinum year in style, with plenty of Action, Romance, Comedy, and Drama!

The 20th Annual Twelve Bars of Xmas – #TBOX2015 – was truly magical. In the Spring of 2015, Mr. Festa announced that the theme would be MOVIES… Comedy, Action, Drama, Romance, and Sticky Floors… everything you love about #TBOX!!! The bar crawl was GLORIOUS, with a precipitation-free day of OVER 60 DEGREES in Chicago on Saturday, December 12th (2nd warmest only to 73F in 1998!) – and amazing day for the #FestaPartiers from all around Chicago and the USA who came in for the big event.

In keeping with the Movie theme, we had some awesome frames courtesy of our sponsor, #BudLight, including the “Hollywood Sign” frames, “Clapper”, and “Movie Curtain” frames. Also, our Super-Cool badges featured TBOX Royal Court Members in parody movie posters from the last few years.

The Opening Ceremonies at Cubby Bear featured a 20-Year Retrospective of #TBOX since 1996, featuring Movie Clips and Music Videos and Songs from every year of TBOX… like Macarena, Semi-Charmed Life, Hot in Here, Hey Ya, Teenage Dream, Get the Party Started, Wedding Crashers, Old School, Jerry Maguire, Independence Day, and right up thru “I Can’t Feel My Face” and Fifty Shades of Grey! After the Countdown, we honored three lifetime TBOX legends – Fred, Fuji, and Peckham, who between them have been to more than FIFTY TBOX’s thru the years!!! We then had an awesome movie sing-a-long and the cutting of the green wire to start the crawl officially!

The TBOX2015 12 Bars of Xmas Royal Court

Longtime TBOXers honored at the 20th Anniversary TBOX Opening Ceremonies with the Cereal Dump!!!

The TBOX2015 Closing Ceremonies at Cubby Bear!

TBOX #21 – TBOX, The Wedding (2016)

The 21st Annual Twelve Bars of Xmas – #TBOX2016 – was TBOX The Wedding. Clark Street was filled with Christmas Wedding costumes, fake marriage proposals, and people catching bouquets and cereal everywhere! In the Joy of the Aftermath of the Cubs’ first World Series Victory in 108 years, Wrigleyville was abuzz with happiness.

TBOX #22 – Brett Eldredge Comes to TBOX, Media Frenzy, and Breaking the World Record

Going to Tahiti for this photoshoot was really expensive… TOTALLY NOT PHOTOSHOPPED!!

in 2017 at the 22nd Annual TBOX, we beat the current World Record pub crawl by over 240%! The theme was Christmas Vacation, and we converted Clark Street into a Holiday / Travel / Vacation Wonderland! And, Country Music Superstar Brett Eldredge came to TBOX and Hung Out All Day!!! Who knows who will be coming in 2018?!?!!

TBOX2017 took place in Wrigley on December 9, 2017, with the theme CHRISTMAS VACATION! We also made an attempt to break the official Guinness World Record of 4,885 participants in a pub crawl, and we ended up with over 12,000! It was an amazing day for TBOX, with festive Holiday and Vacation costumes and an appearance by Country Music Superstar BRETT ELDREDGE! (see his Instagram Post Here!) Thanks to everyone who made #TBOX2017 such a special day! View All Photos Here! We were also on the Cover of the Chicago RedEye Newspaper!!

TBOX 2017 Made the Cover of the RedEye Newspaper… just like in 2010!

Also, TBOX appeared on WCIU the Ham, WGN News, WGN Radio, and the Fox Morning Show. View All Our Press Videos and Clips Here!

TBOX #23 – "TOY BOX" (2018)

TBOX #23 was on SATURDAY, DECEMBER 8, 2018 in Wrigleyville Chicago – #TBOX2018 – “TOY BOX” ! Festa’s Original Twelve Bars of Xmas Pub Crawl had a Toy Theme and was accompanied by a Toy Drive as part of our charity!! We donated over $500 worth of toys, and made a $20,000 Cash Donation to the Lakeview East Community Partnership as part of the event. This brought our total charitable contributions from TBOX to over $283,000!

TBOX 2018 was graciously sponsored by Bud Light, Goose Island, Fireball, Makers Mark, Effen Vodka, and Cruzan Rum, which provided an awesome selection of drink specials for customers.

The TBOX Opening Ceremonies were hosted by Big Brother CBS Reality TV Star Brett Robinson this year, and other features included the on-site interactive experience of the NBC Sunday Night Football Truck at TBOX 2018! Check out some of our photos below as well as in our full Facebook Album Here!

TBOX #24 (2019) – December 14, 2019
The THEME is MEMES! For More Tickets information on this year's TBOX, Click Here!