SOUTH PORTLAND — Santa Clauses are coming to town.
Every year, more than 1,500 runners and walkers dress up like St. Nick for the Santa Hustle 5K. There are now 11 Santa Hustle events across the nation, but South Portland’s is the only one in New England this year.
Now in its fifth year in Maine, the race will be held Sunday, Dec. 2, beginning at 8 a.m. The race will start and end at 364 Maine Mall Road. The course will be adorned with various stations offering Christmas candy and cookies, with holiday carols playing in the background.
The race series began in Chicago, where founder Aaron Del Mar is from, 10 years ago. Del Mar said he expects about 1,200-1,800 people to register for the South Portland event, depending largely on weather conditions.
He said South Portland is one of the smallest races in the series; Belmont, North Carolina, in comparison, attracts 5,000-6,000 participants.
This year, Del Mar said, organizers thought about scaling back race locations and eliminating some of the smaller ones, but opposition from the community convinced them not to.
“We’ve gotten a ton of support from South Portland,” he said. “We just couldn’t let the community down.”
Each race benefits a different charity. In South Portland, the benefactor is Easter Seals Maine, which provides services to people with disabilities or special needs and their families.
Registration from now through Dec. 1 costs $49.75 and can be completed online at www.eventbrite.com. Registration increases to $60 on race day. All participants will receive a Santa hat, Santa beard, performance hoodie, and finisher medal.
The top three male and female finishers in each age group for the 5K will receive a customized Santa Hustle medal. The top three overall male and female finishers in each race will receive a personalized award.
Participants are also asked to bring a new, unwrapped toy on race day to donate to Toys for Tots.
Del Mar said the race is jolly good fun for all, whether participants chose to dash, prance or dance along the route.
“People just come out and have a good time,” Del Mar said. “How can you not in a sea of Santas?”
Hundreds of Santa Clauses will flood the streets around the Maine Mall in South Portland Sunday, Dec. 2, for the fifth annual Santa Hustle 5K.