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Door County's first German-style Christmas market is a chance to shop local artisans in a pastoral setting – Green Bay Press Gazette

SISTER BAY – The artisans and crafters are all lined up, the German food will be cooking and hot drinks will be steaming, and shoppers will be able to warm themselves around a blazing fire as Door County’s first-ever Christkindlmarkt gets ready to welcome visitors.
Christkindlmarkt Door County opens over the Thanksgiving weekend and continues the first two weekends in December on the grounds of Corner of the Part Museum in Sister Bay. While one can find other Christkindlmarkts across the country, including one this weekend in Kewaunee and the famous month-long one in downtown Chicago, the Door County version will boast of a couple differences to make it stand out from the others.
Like other Christkindlmarkts, it’s an old-fashioned, German-style, pop-up Christmas street market with artists, craftspersons and other makers of gift-type goods on hand to sell their wares to holiday shoppers. The list of 22 vendors for the Door County market includes fiber artists and clothing makers, household and kitchen items, candles and soaps, fine art and foods.
Plus, shoppers won’t have a reason to go hungry. Door County restaurants Thyme and Culinaria and catering company Your Guest Chef will serve meals from German, Scandinavian and other Northern European cuisines, and bakery by several Peninsula bakers and popcorn will be available.
Also, the Sister Bay Historical Society, which operates Corner of the Past and sponsors the market, will run a fundraising beverage booth serving Swedish glogg (a hot, spiced port wine and Cabernet blend made with a mix from Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant in the village), hot chocolate and apple cider, and a special Christkindlmarkt blend by Door County Coffee.
When not checking out the vendors’ wares, guests can listen to live music by Karen Mal, well known to Peninsula music buffs for appearances with Northern Sky Theater and in concert, and pet the furry friends from Alpaca to Apparel.
And of course, Santa Claus will be on hand to meet children on the Saturday afternoons of the market.
But one thing Christkindlmart Door County can offer that most other such markets can’t is its location, said John Nelson, Sister Bay Historical Society board member and the person who pitched the idea of it to the society. The museum is a recreation of an 1800s pioneer homestead featuring 15 farm buildings, some first constructed in the late 19th or early 20th century.
And, the Door County market will be mostly an outdoor event to help give it an Old World feeling. Vendors and food booths will be in the heated museum buildings or under a heated tent, but shoppers will stroll around outside between the buildings and can warm themselves around a fire pit and take in the (hopefully) crisp air and starry evenings.
“One thing we have that other Christkindlmarkts don’t is this beautiful setting,” Nelson said. “We’ve worked really hard to preserve the aesthetic of what a Christkindlmarkt should be.”
The market also is a chance for holiday shoppers to shop local. All of the 22 vendors invited to take part are based in or live in Door County, one of the main goals Nelson and the other organizers had.
“It was super important to have local vendors,” Nelson said. “One of the so-called founding principles to this event was that our vendors be artisans who lived all the time or most of the time in Door County.”
Another factor Nelson cited in selecting vendors was giving a chance to new or burgeoning artisans and craftspeople looking to get their products out to a larger shopping audience.
“We went for smaller vendors,” Nelson said. “Maybe the up-and-comers who don’t necessarily have the venue but are trying to get established. So they are a super-excited bunch of people.”
Besides giving people a unique place to shop for unique gifts, the Christkindlmarkt also is intended to draw tourists and bring attention to Door County during what’s called its “shoulder season,” a time between the last of the fall community festivals and the start of winter festivals and recreation. Outside of a number of community holiday tree lighting ceremonies and festivals over the next few weeks — including Sister Bay’s two-day “Capture the Spirit” during the market’s opening weekend — the Peninsula traditionally doesn’t offer many events to attract visitors from outside the area from mid-October until January.
“One of the Holy Grails of Door County business is extending the (tourist) season,” Nelson said. “If this event flies, which we expect it will do, it’ll accomplish that mission. … Our hope is that the event will not make it unusual for people to think of visiting Door County in November and December.”
Nelson also believes the chance to showcase Corner of the Past’s historic buildings during the market will entice shoppers to revisit them when the museum is open during the summer.
“The hope is that people who experience Christkindlmarkt now will be interested in coming back to Corner of the Past in the summer and exploring Sister Bay history,” Nelson said.
Increasing tourism during Door County’s shoulder season also is how the historical society earned a $22,838 Joint Effort Marketing (JEM) grant from the Wisconsin Department of Tourism earlier this year to put on the Christkindlmarkt, among a total of $1,154,904 the tourism department awarded to 52 JEM projects across the state.
When the event was announced in March, Nelson said it was expected to bring an estimated $234,600 to the area in visitor spending, not just at the market but also in lodging, dining and other amenities. He said this past week those estimates are still valid, perhaps even a little on the low side.
“We expect the impact on local tourism and lodging to remain on track, or even more (than estimated),” Nelson said. “From tracking on social media, we can see it’s going to be heavily attended. Especially the first weekend — it’s Thanksgiving weekend, with a lot of people coming back home to their families, and it’s Black Friday. It’s going to be a fun event for a lot of people.
“It’s going to be a combination of all the things people love about Christmas.”
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Christkindlmarkt Door County will be open Nov. 26 to 28, Dec. 3 to 5 and Dec. 10 to 12 at Corner of the Past Museum, 10310 Fieldcrest Road, Sister Bay. Hours are from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Fridays, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sundays. Admission is free.
Parking will not be available on site for visitors, except for some spots for cars with accessible parking tags or stickers, but a shuttle bus will run continuously between the market and two designated parking lots at Dovetail Acres (behind the Dovetail Trading convenience store), 10282 State 57; and the former Shopko Hometown store, 2541 S. Bay Shore Drive/State 42 (behind the Mobil/Sub Express convenience store). The shuttle will start an hour before the market opens and continue until an hour after closing.
For more information, visit
Vendors at Christkindlmarkt Door County
Contact Christopher Clough at 920-741-7952, 920-562-8900 or


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