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MKE’s Festivus, the holiday for the rest of us!

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Special to the Tribune

‘Tis the season to roll the aluminum pole out of the crawl space and head over to Brady Street for Milwaukee’s celebration of Festivus, the holiday for the rest of us.

Residents and businesses on Brady Street have been celebrating the quirky holiday for the past five years with revelers gathering for the celebratory events and bar crawl that will run from 9:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m Saturday.

For the uninitiated, Festivus comes from one of the most popular episodes of “Seinfeld” titled “The Strike,” which aired in 1997. In the episode, George’s dad, Frank Costanza, tells what is essentially the nativity story of Festivus. “Many Christmases ago, I went to buy a doll for my son. I reached for the last one they had, but so did another man. As I rained blows upon him, I realized there had to be another way,” Frank says. “Out of that a new holiday was born … a Festivus for the rest of us!”

Like any other holiday, Festivus has some pretty unique holiday traditions. Born out of Frank’s hatred of all their commercial and religious aspect of other winter holidays, Festivus is described as an alternative. So, in lieu of extravagantly decorative tree, Festivus invites you to gather around an aluminum pole that is not measured by its flashy decorations, but by its “very high strength-to-weight ratio.”

Jay Benaderet, the manager of World of Beer, a bar on Brady Street known for its wide selection, said all restaurants and bars taking part in the event will have a metal Festivus pole outside their establishments to keep with the Costanza tradition. And just like in the episode, the celebration begins with the Airing of Grievances when you fill your family and friends in on how they disappointed you the past year. As Frank yells around the dinner table in the episode, “I got a lot of problems with you people! And now you’re gonna hear about it!”

According to Benaderet, the best grievances will be posted on the World of Beer Facebook page.

Participants can dine on non-holiday food and drinks during the Airing of the Grievances at participating bars along the street including Hosed on Brady, Regano’s Roman Coin, Nomad World Pub, Malone’s on Brady, Club Brady, Jo-Cat’s Pub and Jack’s American Pub. Daniel Dufek, the manager of the Hi Hat Lounge, said they offer a drink special just for the occasion on top of the festive events.

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Next in traditional Festivus celebrations comes Feats of Strength. Here the head of the family chooses another Festivus participant to challenge. Only when he pins the other person to the ground can Festivus be over. In the special case of Festivus on Brady Street, the opponent can decline the wrestling match if they so wish.

Benaderet also said World of Beer will host a “Seinfeld” quiz for the occasion to test customer’s knowledge on all things “Seinfeld” in addition to the other events. There is an easy version as well as a more challenging version of the quiz for true Seinfeld aficionados. Winners of each quiz will win a gift card.

Though the classic Festivus episode of “Seinfeld” is now 16 years old, Milwaukee is just one of the cities keeping the tradition alive across the county. Today you can still buy Festivus books, posters and Kramer’s famous “Festivus yes! Bagels no!’ strike sign. A Milwaukee company even sells Festivus poles (always unadorned because Frank “finds tinsel distracting.”) Like some sort of Festivus miracle, it seems that the love of the show and the novelty of the holiday have lived on through devoted members of “the rest of us.”

Benaderet said Festivus is his favorite holiday to celebrate all year.

“As a Seinfeld fan, it’s something that everyone can kind of get into,” he said. “It’s the spirit of Festivus.”

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