KRAMPUSLAUF PHILADELPHIA 2014 and it’s season: post-musings (some thoughts about Yes and No)

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(You may notice that my use of normal capitalizing continues throughout this post; it’s because I’m pretty sure I’ll be using it as the forward for 2014’s yearbook, and there’s no way I’m going back and making all the changes then.)

We were a little “late” in getting to Krampuslauf 2014, in that we were exactly on time, “time” being 4:30. There was a time when I’d get to Krampuslauf at 4:30 and a few people would just be arriving. That’s not how it was this year.

Our special secret parking spot: taken. As we found ourselves something temporary and illegal, I saw Janet fervently binding Chris Carson into Das Mädchen. Where was Chris’ usual spotter? I wondered.

And I wondered: who the hell are all those people?

I have seen what two hundred, two fifty-ish looks like at Liberty Lands for Krampuslauf. This was not that. The crowd was so big that it took me awhile to locate anyone I KNEW.

We had been “late” because we had not known that roads around the Liberty Lands area would be blocked off due to the Running of the Santas — an event that has nothing to do with Krampuslauf. People had been texting and calling me in the car, saying that they were having trouble getting to the park. But there were vastly more people who had had NO trouble getting to the park. Because they were in it. A lot of them.

More than I had ever seen.

The official photo album for KP:POS 2014 is here on Flickr and has of this writing not everything has been gathered and put in order. (It also begins with LAST year’s retrospective at Imperfect Gallery, so you’ll have to scroll quite a bit to find images relevant to this past season in particular — but there are tons.) Still, if it had to all come down to one image, it would be this one, by Steve Schultz:


When it was time to get everybody faced in the direction by which we would leave the park for the procession — and for Rob to give the now traditional Invocation, and for Arun to sing the carol he wrote for Portland’s Krampuslauf (Yes! Arun! The founder of Portland, Oregon’s Krampuslauf, the whole reason we HAVE a Krampuslauf in Philadelphia, WAS IN PHILADELPHIA for Krampuslauf!) — I found myself standing on a picnic table, hollering directions.

This was my first real indication that the growth of the event was going to require some thinking about how to best manage it in coming years. While it seemed perfectly just and satisfactory to also see Rob and Arun standing on tables, they were not shouting orders at people. I immediately realized: this is not a job I like. We DO have to get everybody to turn this way; there has to be another way to do it.

In 2015: expect a better way to be alerted that it is time to turn your bodies and attention towards the Invocation and leaving the park.

Costume highlights of 2014 included the return of the work of Chris Carson, who not only manned his Das Mädchen again,  but also built her a daughter, to go over my daughter.

"Es Meedli" costume by chris carson illuminated entirely by smugness. photo by neil kohl.
“Es Meedli” costume by chris carson illuminated entirely by smugness. photo by neil kohl.


Honestly it is hard to say what was a “highlight”, because there were MANY amazing masks and so many of them were from people I did not know, recognize, or even get to speak to. (This is something I’m still struggling with as part of this year’s experience; I didn’t know that I had an outright need to speak to every single person at Lauf, but this year I couldn’t, and it is still driving me crazy.)

I had seen that other cities were doing group shots of their Laufs, and I had thought we might try that and had mentioned it to Steve. It was clear once we were in the park that this couldn’t happen without a crane. The Procession itself was so large that I was never sure if Chris and Das Mädchen had made it out onto the street, because I literally never glimpsed them. (Fourteen feet tall with her neck fully extended. Blindingly bright LEDS from top to bottom.)

Back at the park after the Procession, someone exclaimed with excitement over the bagpiper who’d been along with us. Bagpiper? I had not seen nor heard a bagpiper.

Let’s just say for now that it’s an unresolved personal issue that I did not get to see every single thing that happened at Lauf. Perhaps I just no longer can do so. I am certainly grateful for everyone who comes, every single person, from every state, including that a very faithful attendee who comes from Staten Island every year specifically with the goal of being my daughter’s handler while on Procession (ever since Claudia told her a few years ago that “Mommy yells at me during Krampuslauf” and that she didn’t want to walk with me.) (That was Sinterklaas Rhinebeck when I was yelling at you during a parade, Claudia, and it was only once.)

It was a fantastic Lauf with a great vibe and an incredible turnout. JUST AS IMPORTANT to me, it was preceeded by a year of meeting people who had previously only been internet people, by beginning our official workshopping in APRIL (it’s not too soon now either!), seeing concerts and shows with KP:POS pals (Puddles the Clown with Kyle, Boy George with Arun, Matt and Nicole, Hedwig on Broadway with Chris…  WHO WILL COME SEE OF MONTREAL WITH US THIS MARCH 8? That is what I’d like to know.)

And when Krampuslauf Philadelphia was over and done with for 2014, we had that little thing called Christmas, and a few days later got in the car — five in a Prius — and drove to Pittsburgh. Because they do something great there on New Year’s Eve, something called First Night, which is put together by a woman named Cheryl Capetzzuti. First Night is a puppet parade, and is open to volunteer puppeteers and makers. We didn’t make it into town in time for the puppet making workshops, but we were ready to help out with the parade, and when we got to the set-up point on New Year’s Eve, the shelter beneath the Convention Center was literally PILED with puppets, masks, and animal-head staffs. Like they were free zucchinis from a prolific neighborhood garden.

Going to other cities’ festal/processional events is important to me. First off, it’s fun. Second, I am not in charge of anything and so get an entirely different perspective of the event (one i will NEVER get to have on KP:POS as long as I remain in the role I have with it), Third, you get to learn tricks. I learned, at First Night, where dollar-store wastebaskets fit in for excellent costuming opportunities. And I’ve already been stocking up.


That’s my family up there. I myself got to wear a giant flowerpot on my head and was really happy. There is just no feeling like a night parade!


I am a big fan of Pittsburgh and I do know a thing or two about the Pittsburgh Famous. While I was disappointed that I did not get to meet Rick Sebak even though he was Parade Marshall, we were mid-procession when I looked into the crowd on the sidewalk and saw… PHAT MAN DEE.

I mouthed “Phat Man Dee?” and she said, “Yes!”

We screamed “I love you!” at each other a couple times and we kept going.

That was the first time I’d ever SEEN Phat Man Dee, but it’s NOT the first time she’s ever said “Yes” to me. I had heard a recording of Phat Man Dee’s holiday CD in 2012 and had heard her song “O Sinnerman”, and had asked for and secured permission from her to use it for that year’s clip video before Lauf even HAPPENED that year.

Pretty cool, right? More about clip videos in a bit. There is a lot of synchronicity in this post.


We came home from Pittsburgh after New Year’s, and it was time to hang the show at Imperfect Gallery — we had agreed, rather late in the season, to do another three-week post-Lauf exhibit. When we had done our full retrospective last year at the gallery, it was wonderful, but I had said then that I didn’t think I would need to do such a thing again until we had a multi-decade retrospective, with lots of fabulous old falling apart stuff, just whatever remained of years gone by.

So why then did I say we would do another exhibit this  year?

I guess because it’s hard to say no?

Technical difficulties with getting all the pieces for the show together — masks and puppets coming from many more people, from more and farther points on the map — and trying to make a show that contained not a single item from last year’s exhibit (which is what I wanted — that was the only thing that was going to make it worth coming out for, in my head) had already been plaguing us. Ben was unable to stop working to drive to Germantown multiple times to open the gallery for so many people who were coming from such distances with such limited time windows…

I thought, ok, we will just soldier through this, and then we can take the show down and we can be done.

Then I realized that the day we would be taking that show down would be my forty-fifth birthday.

And then I remembered the word “no”.

I spent the entire Saturday of January 3d letting people know about the word “no”. Some of them were literally about to get into their cars and drop masks or puppets off at my house. And yet, the overall reaction was kind of Whoville on Christmas morning. “Oh well, I’ll just get busier on my Yule Cat costume!” was more or less the reaction of the lovely lady who had just had custom frames made for all four of the prints she had been going to put in the show. Whatever! She had cougar jaws to play with. Yule Cat!

That is the thing — when you have a show of artifacts, the one thing that DOES have to be created for it is the print images. Thankfully I was able to halt a good deal of the printing that might have happened on our behalf alone, (although I hear that there is actually good news for someone who did get busy and make their prints…. more on that soon)… and honestly, the images produced at Krampuslauf stand on their own and have worth outside of a single specific gallery show.

Which, actually, seemed to be my retroactive reason for not wanting to go through with the gallery show this year. (A week after cancelling it I finally had a really slick sentence put together for why I had said no.) I did not and do not want to fall into the trap of Krampuslauf itself — that event out in the cold and the snow — merely being the precursor to the static REMINDER of that event. Of course we wait for the pictures to start showing up on Facebook and Flickr as soon as we are home and in our pajamas on the night of Lauf! But a gallery exhibit… well, KP:POS only sometimes belongs in a gallery. And should never ONLY be experienced in a gallery. And part of me knew that we were setting a precedent for making that a part of the whole thing, when to me, it was really off-track from our original vision. We don’t require the visibility, or the publicity. And we need, I think, to encourage people that the only way to experience KP:POS is to be there.

I was (and am) INCREDIBLY grateful for the support I was shown in making this decision. Virtually no bitching at all. Maybe people are more like me than I assume they are, and many were just sighing at the idea of having to have their bras on a little longer on an upcoming Friday night to go to the opening, even when they’d seen and worn all those things at Lauf already.

Plus, we were already busy coming up with new things we wanted to make for 2015.

Here’s something we also said “no” to this year, simply for the fact that to do it would be to spend a lot of time making something very similar to things we had made already. We did not and are not making a clip video for KP:POS 2014. I don’t think we did it the first year, and the videos from 2012 and 2013 are distinctly different from one another, mostly because 2013’s has SO much maker footage. We just didn’t have that this year. And now I think that is what makes the video interesting from year to year (again, this is just another thing I realized retroactively; I knew I didn’t want to do it before I knew why I didn’t want to do it); the bits where people are MAKING their costumes, lanterns, puppets, etc. Footage of the procession and park is always great, and would always be included, but I would like to see what happened this year if people video-document their making processes, in groups or alone, and we could use it as part of the clip video for 2015.

(And, since Austrian Krampus-Metal band Violenzia had already ok’d the use of any song from their CD, we already have another great, and completely different from the other two, soundtrack ready.)

So while there is no official video this year, here are two audio clips; Mykl Wells and myself talking with Ed Feldman on G-Town Radio’s Morning Feed (Mykl talks a lot about his own art and the All Souls’ Procession in Tuscon; it’s an excellent listen)


And here is a podcast from New World Witchery where some folks from KP:POS’ Heathen contingent, and I, talked about Lauf and what it means to us:


And also some print media, in both link form from Julie Zeglen at the Star, and in image form from Dave Kline at the Reading Eagle:


Here are some things we are saying YES to, after looking carefully at this year’s surprising event growth: YES, we are keeping Krampuslauf in Liberty Lands. Krampuslauf belongs in Liberty Lands. YES, we will find a way to map traffic around the Running of the Santas because it’s very likely that the two events are scheduled on the same dates again and often will be.

YES, you are invited to my house to work on masks, puppets and lanterns throughout the year — we celebrated our Exhibitless New Year by purchasing a new art work station/island for our front room and are happy to have anyone come over at any time and work on their Krampuslauf Philadelphia 2015 necessities!

And YES, we will have workshops, hopefully more than just one — it is my goal to make sure we have one specifically kid-centered workshop (because we haven’t done that since 2012) in addition to the big catch-all workshop, which this year will be happening, thanks to a kind invitation, at the historic Laurel Hill Cemetery. (They have a great indoor space. It’s above ground.)

YES, it looks like we are having another amazing guest artist travel from afar this coming year (we cannot say enough about or give enough thanks to Mykl Wells for all he brought to us in Philadelphia in 2014.)

He bore up under the cold pretty well.


Special thanks to Standard Tap for hosting a toast to our parade as as many of us as possible stumbled through the pub, visually impaired by masks. (They even came outside to hand warm drinks out! They are awesome. Thank you Dolly and everyone.)

And thanks to the Penn Treaty Special Services District for their grant, a second year in a row, of $2000 to Krampuslauf Philadelphia. This money helps build art and helps artists not have to live on the “sadness diet” as Chris Carson once referred to it.

And with that, I conclude the 2014 review, (still short one link and still with only half as many photos as it will eventually have in the Flickr album, but we can’t wait for everything), and we move ahead to December of 2015 and the journey that gets us to it!