Milford bars welcome back Santa Con, after last year’s COVID-related hiatus

MILFORD — Julien Debelle Duplan had seen different Santa Cons in surrounding cities like New Haven and New York and thought that a Santa Con in Milford would be a hit.

“In 2019, I had lived on top of one of the bars in Milford, and my neighbors and I were talking saying there’s always Stamford Santa Con, New Haven Santa Con and New York,” he said. “Milford has a great opportunity and a great downtown as well as great restaurants and bars, and we said to ourselves, why don’t we just create our own Santa Con, so we don’t have to travel.”

They all agreed Milford has enough residents interested in a Santa Con and decided to move forward with it.

“The event working out really well, we had more than 200 people, and we were able to raise money for charity as well,” said Debelle Duplan. “The event worked well.”

During the first Milford Santa Con, the team had two bars featured, and because of the event, he said they were able to donate $1,000 to an ALS charity.

On Thursday, Dec. 23, the Second Annual Downtown Milford Santa Con starts at 4 p.m. and will go to 10 p.m.

Debelle Duplan said they couldn’t hold a Santa Con in 2020 due to COVID, but they are excited to bring it back and said they are expecting it to grow even more in popularity this year.

“We decided to go with a Thursday, before Christmas Eve to hopefully make it like Thanksgiving Eve, which is one of the packed bar nights in the entire country,” he said. “We kinda wanted to go with the same theme and make it the day before Christmas Eve because people will be off of work, so that was our logic for doing it on Thursday.”

With COVID still being a risk, Debelle Duplan said they are following all updates by Gov. Ned Lamont and have been closely monitoring the situation.

“We don’t plan to cancel the event under the states current guidelines,” he said. “All our venues are following local and state guidelines. Masks and Santa outfits are strongly encouraged.”

Another reason they decided to do it Thursday is that all of the other Santa Cons are already over, and if people want to continue to go to Santa Cons, they can do so in Milford.

“This year, we decided to feature a more local charity,” said Debelle Duplan. “We will be donating half of the ticket costs to the Yale New Haven Toy Closet, which is a program that provides toys for pediatric and young patients they see throughout the year.”

This year, three bars will be featured, starting with Citrus from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., Eli’s Tavern from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., and My Bar and Grille from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m.

“There’s tons of specials at each bar, and they are all individual to each restaurant and bar, and they choose them beforehand, and we look to make it an affordable bar crawl and promote giving back to charity as well,” said Debelle Duplan.

During the first Santa Con, Debelle Duplan said the community enjoyed the event and brought together a wide range of demographic and age groups.

“There were people from every single age group that were getting involved, which is not super common when you think about going to the bars, so it was really nice to bring people together,” he said. “It’s also a fun, silly way to socialize and get together and dress up as Santa and keep the holiday spirit alive now more than the pandemic and being in tough times.”

To make the festivities available to most people, Santa Con was extended by two hours.

“Obviously, not everyone can get to the event when it starts, and some people might come in between, and others might come towards the end,” said Debelle Duplan. “The last event was only four hours long, and we actually made this one six hours long and included one more bar. Being that it will go until 10 p.m. this time, it will allow more individuals to get there.”

For Debelle Duplan, the Santa Con is a way to create a good environment downtown during the winter months.

“We are looking to emphasize the holiday spirit and everyone gathering around the day before Christmas Eve, and I think it’s a great time for friends and families to get together before they actually do so on the holiday,” he said.

The Second Annual Downtown Milford Santa Con begins at Citrus, and there is a $10 cover.