GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The Grand Rapids Downtown Market is getting into the holiday spirit as the Christkindl Markt opens to the public on Friday.
The market has been years in the making, requiring hours of research to bring the European Christmas tradition to West Michigan.
“We’ve had some definite research going into all of it. Our director here, she’s been to over 70 Christmas markets in her lifetime, so this is a passion of course of hers,” Karen Carpenter, general manager of the Christkindl Markt, said. “… A lot has gone into making this authentic with our own little twists here and there.”
The market will be held in the parking lot of the Downtown Market. It will feature food items like Polish dogs, currywurst and baked goods as well as shopping items like alpaca products made with alpaca wool and wood products.
“You can do personalized ornaments and other really fun traditional European things,” Carpenter said.
Most of the around 30 vendors will be at the market all 26 days the market is open. Two of the vendor stalls will host weekly pop-up vendors.
One of the pop-up vendors, Julie Lawson, is selling pet accessories throughout the first week, with items like collars, leashes and bandanas. She started making them after the pandemic put a pause on her other business.
Get a 360 view of the market in the player below:
The Detroit-based vendor brings a unique aspect to her shop with several items made with fabric she got in Australia.
“I’m a dual citizen with Australia,” she explained. “I spend a lot of time in Sydney, so I’ll literally stuff my bags with fabric when I’m coming back.”
She said she loves markets because she gets to interact with the customers and meet lots of dogs.
“What really attracted me to this market was the idea of having this cute German chalet, the Chris Kringle market vibe and feel,” she said. “You can look around right now and it’s just stunning what they’re doing and a lot of time and effort.”
Another vendor, Marv Graff, is selling handmade jewelry and embellished vintage pieces. Before moving to the Midwest, he lived in New York City for 30 years, where he was a costume jewelry designer.
He did a lot of holiday markets in New York City.
“In my family Christmas was really a big thing, so I love holiday shopping,” he said. “When I lived in New York City, the shopping was really, really great. But I found the transition kind of different when I moved to the Midwest and I just decided that I would help the holiday spirit and present this collection.”
Since the market is outdoors in the colder months, anyone visiting is encouraged to bundle up and enjoy a warm beverage from the family-friendly German-style beverage hall.
“The Market Shed, which is a large area right in the parking lot … is all enclosed and has now glass garage doors on it. And that entire space is our beverage hall. There’s a bar in there where we are serving gluhwein (a mulled spiced wine) in our collectible gluhwein mug as well as beer from Brewery Vivant. They made a special beer for us … that also comes in a special stein that is ours,” Carpenter said.
The collectible gluhwein mugs and beer steins are very common in Europe with different cities offering their own mug design. Just like in Europe, the Christkindl Markt plans to change up the design each year, making it a collectible item.
In addition to food, beverages and gifts, the market will feature a number of activities and entertainment for visitors of all ages.
“We do have a great children’s area located inside the Downtown Market. Santa and Mrs. Claus will make their appearances here throughout the weekends, every weekend. We’re highlighting storytime with Mrs. Claus. You can write letters to Santa. He picks up his mail on Sundays. That sort of thing,” Carpenter said.
Someone who might be a new Christmas character for many is the Christkind.
“She is making her appearance a the beginning and the end of the Christmas market and she is the European giftbarer. She looks like an angel,” Carpenter said.
For those looking to warm up, the market has several chalets with seating and heat available to rent. Click here for more information.
The Christkindl Markt is open Wednesday through Sunday. On Wednesdays and Thursdays, the market is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. On Fridays, it is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. On Saturdays, it is open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. On Sundays, it is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
The Christkindl Markt closes for the season on Dec. 23.