This year's annual bar tour has four scheduled stops in the Cincinnati area: Sorrentos' Italian Restaurant in Reading at 6:00 p.m., Sleepy Hollow in Loveland at 7:00 p.m., Black Forest in Pisgah at 8:30 p.m., and Silver Spring House in Symmes Township at 9:30 p.m. But the bus full of musical elves has been known to make unscheduled stops at other locations along the way, as well.
The band started one December night about 25 years ago when 1975 graduate Tom Heitkemper and fellow alumni Paul Wessendarp, Mike Fritz, Mark Greiner and Dale Stalf grabbed a few friends and decided to crash a bar with a few carols.
The group evolved into Santa's Goody Bag Band, a group of musicians who dress up like musical elves and perform Christmas carols year-round, amusing audiences, benefiting local charities and making an annual bar tour the Saturday before Christmas.
In 1982, the band took on a new note when a woman gave them a donation for playing the favorite song of her daughter, who had died that year. She suggested they contribute it to Shriners Hospitals for Children in Cincinnati, which treats badly burned children from around the Midwest free of charge. The group has since raised more than $12,000 for Shriners and a few thousand dollars for other charities.
"It's a way of bringing the spirit of Christmas to Cincinnati in our own way, not just in music, but in donations to places that need it," says Heitkemper.