Denver Christkindl Market is rare holiday holdout

Fixture of season returns downtown as pandemic has limited number of celebrations

Hannah Metzger
The Denver Gazette
Posted 11/30/20

As one of the city's last remaining holiday celebrations, the Denver Christkindl Market is trying to keep the magic alive for the community while supporting small businesses. The annual event has …

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Denver Christkindl Market is rare holiday holdout

Fixture of season returns downtown as pandemic has limited number of celebrations

Posted

As one of the city's last remaining holiday celebrations, the Denver Christkindl Market is trying to keep the magic alive for the community while supporting small businesses.

The annual event has brought German and European holiday traditions to Denver for 20 years with local and international small business vendors. And it's one of the city's only celebrations not canceled by COVID-19.

“People are out here to support the market. They want to make sure we can come back next year,” said William Reed with the German-American Chamber of Commerce, which runs the market.

This year, the market was moved from Skyline Park to a 60,000-square-foot section of Civic Center Park to allow for social distancing and a one-way directional flow. The market is also imposing 75-guest maximum capacity in each of its two zones.

Reed said the market is now almost always at capacity with people regularly waiting up to an hour and a half on the weekends just to enter.

With other iconic celebrations, such as Colorado Ballet's “The Nutcracker” and the Parade of Lights, being modified or canceled, Reed said the market is more important to the holiday season than ever.

“There's nothing to do and this is an opportunity for them to go outside,” Reed said. “It's a really magical experience in a way that you can't access this year.”

Besides just holiday fun, this year the market is also providing essential funds for numerous small businesses.

The market hosts dozens of small businesses including Björn's Honey, Unique Glass Ornaments, Chocoidea, Corey's Chocolate, Winterborn Alpaca, Burton's Maplewood Farms, Travel Posters, Wise Elk and Bob's Roasted Nuts.

Bob Stephens with Bob's Roasted Nuts said the Christkindl Market is his business's only event this year that hasn't been cancelled.

“We are very thankful to have the opportunity to make a living and have some sense of normalcy throughout the holiday season,” said Stephens, who has participated in the market since 2011.

This is the first year that Corey's Chocolate has been a part of the market. Corey Crespi said his 3-year-old business relies on in-person events like farmers markets and festivals to get by.

“This market is very important to us,” Crespi said. “We have invested significantly in this market and we believe it will be a huge success … We are excited to be vendors in such a well-established and successful Christmas market.”

However, the market is still facing challenges.

Luca Modolo from Chocoidea said his sales are down 50% compared to last year. He said Chocoidea's sales during the market are of “vital importance” to the business's success.

The Germany-based chocolate store has been traveling to Denver since 2017 to participate in the market.

“I had extreme difficulties and risked a lot … to be able to be present in Denver,” Modolo said. “It took considerable efforts, not only economic.”

Bob's Roasted Nuts also expressed trouble with not being allowed to pass out samples due to COVID-19. And Wise Elk said it was very difficult for them to find staff this year because of fear of contact.

Reed said though all of the market's huts are being utilized this year, most with returning vendors, the market lost some of its regulars over COVID-19 economic impacts.

Reed said a Danish pastry vendor that usually has a triple booth at the market had to drop out entirely.

“This is the only chance to make the money this year and they're really reliant on it,” Reed said.

In addition to helping fund the vendors' businesses, the annual market is also essential to the German American Chamber of Commerce.

Reed said the market is one of the only fundraising events for the chamber and its main source of revenue. And while sales are being made, they're noticeably lower than previous years.

The success of this year's market could make or break the market's ability to return in future years. And for some, that would mean devastating the culture of Denver.

Astrid and Mario Hausdoerfer from Unique Glass Ornaments said to them, the market is about preserving tradition.

The Hausdoerfers have sold their handmade German glass ornaments at the market since 2009. They have watched the market grow year by year and are always enamored by watching people experience their culture.

“Our markets are more than a place to have an income,” the Hausdoerfers said. “The main thing is we can keep our five-generation tradition of glassblowing. We can keep a very old profession.”

“We can have a flourishing city only if we use it. So come out to the Christkindl Market to keep traditions.”

The Christkindl Market market will be open until Dec. 23. Admission is free.

The market is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. Beginning Dec. 17, it will close at 9 p.m. every day.

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