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Michael Rielly

Wunderbar! German Christmas Market has found a new home

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Michael Rielly

Wunderbar! German Christmas Market has found a new home

NJ Herald
By Lori Comstock
March 5, 2020



FRANKFORD — As she looked out at the vacant land and buildings within the confines of the Sussex County Fairgrounds, Karin Meyer was already thinking about the winter holiday season.

Meyer, one of the founders of the invariably successful Lake Mohawk Christmas Market, smiled as she envisioned twinkling holiday trees, children laughing and hands grasped around a warm cup of mulled cider.

“It actually brings tears to my eyes,” Meyer, who was born and raised in Germany until moving when she was 18, said as she clasped her hands together.

Meyer was on-hand Thursday at the Sussex County Fairgrounds with several other Board members of the Lake Mohawk German Christmas Market along with employees of the Sussex County Fairgrounds to make it official: The market has found their new home at the Frankford fairgrounds.

Sabine Watson, a German Market board member, said that it was important to find a partner in Sussex County whose community-minded goals resonated with the Market’s Board.

“We’ve been fortunate enough for 19 years to give back to the community so it’s that much more special to us to now have a partner that is also of the same goal to give back in both an authentic experience bringing in the holiday season as well as to those in our community,” Watson said.

Mike Richards, manager of the Sussex County Fairgrounds who signed the official contract with Watson Thursday, said that the fairgrounds have always had a history as a non-profit to “give back.”

“It’s an alignment of our missions, so I’m really excited,” Richards said. “We are really looking forward to it.”

Joan Smith, the fairgrounds’ president, echoed Richards’ feelings, stating that she was “really happy to add a new community event to our schedule.”

The market will still run for three days the first weekend of December and will be called the Lake Mohawk German Christmas Market at the Sussex County Fairgrounds this year, Watson said so as to not confuse those who have attended in the past. Come next year, the Market Board may consider a new name.

As for the layout of the Market itself, Watson said the entryway will be by the fairgrounds’ conservatory where entertainment will be showcased. As visitors walk into the fairgrounds, they will see the market’s signature authentic booths, or huts, on both sides of the walkway. Outside vendors will be in the open-air barns and indoor vendors will be in the small animal barns and the Richards building.

Watson said the layout will allow for food offerings to be centralized within the area being utilized, such as the Board of Agriculture BBQ pavilion.

As a volunteer-led event, Watson hopes local nurseries would be willing to donate Christmas trees and there is a plan to invite local school children in the county to take part in a Christmas tree decorating program. There will be additional children’s activities, a petting zoo, pony rides and possibly carriage rides.

The hours will remain the same and as has always been the case, there will be no admission fees. While crowds are estimated around 25,000 each year, Watson said the fairgrounds offers plenty of parking with no need for shuttle buses. With around 125 vendors signed up last year, Judy Beelaert, the Market’s Board president, said that while they are roughly a month behind schedule, vendor packets will be going out next week.

The decision to host the 20th annual affair on the 165-acre grounds wasn’t made in haste, even though the organizers of the German Christmas Market were served, what they called, a “blow” when they were left without a place to call home on Jan. 17. Citing safety concerns due to the event’s growth, the Lake Mohawk Country Club Board of Trustees announced they would no longer host the popular event.

The Market’s Board, with the assistance of Tammie Horsfield, president of the Sussex County Economic Development Partnership, met with several venue owners in Sussex County and had found three that had “risen to the top as viable new locations,” according to a release by the Market board. Those locations included the Shoppes at Lafayette and Crystal Springs.

While each offered their own unique benefits, the Board said, it was ultimately the fairgrounds that was the best suited to continue the Market’s future.

As the market transitions from a local venture that once began with a dozen vendors a handful of volunteers to a regional affair, still with its local roots, Watson said the new adventure at the fairgrounds shows “We’ve expanded and we really feel we want to make sure everyone within that expanded community feels a sense of welcome.”

The three-day market has, over the past 19 years, welcomed friends, families and visitors from all over to usher in the holiday season with gifts, music and traditional German food. In keeping with its authenticity since the beginning as a community-centric celebration, all remaining profits, once overhead costs are settled, are donated to local charities.

Since its inception, the Market has donated over $350,000 to more than 20 community agencies. As they have each year, the Market’s Board will be distributing their donations to the local organizations at the end of the month.




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