Temperatures Saturday were just below freezing and a hearty snowfall fell, but that didn’t stop shoppers and vendors alike from hanging around outside the Lazy Monk Brewing beer hall’s third annual Christkindlmarkt.
“In Wisconsin, you know, we’re hardy people,” said Theresa Frank, Lazy Monk co-owner.
If anyone got cold, they simply had to walk inside and thaw out over a brat and a brew inside the beer hall.
The market, modeled after traditional European markets, included 36 vendors, which Frank noted as major growth from the event’s inception. This year there was even a waiting list, she said.
Though most of the vendors were not selling traditional fare, Frank said the point of the market continues to be to expose community members to local vendors.
“We all talk about supporting our neighbors, but the reality is it’s difficult to do that,” Frank said. “There’s all the big box stores, and you don’t know what you’re buying. We think it’s important that you meet the people who are selling the products because there are amazing things here in the Chippewa Valley that people don’t always have access to.”
Bundled-up vendors were selling food like brats, breads and soup and crafts like home décor, ornaments and plant pots.
One seller, Joni Anderson, was selling Scandinavian handmade gnomes called nisse — a word that means friendly goblin — potholders and ornaments. Anderson said she’s been a crafter for years, and being able to sell at the Christkindlmarkt is enjoyable.
“It’s exciting to talk to people and get in the Christmas spirit,” she said.
Anderson said that spirit is what her shop is all about. After all, it’s called God Jul, which translates to Good Yule.
After going through the market stands and making a few purchases, Alyson and Kelly Zweifelhofer stopped to buy brats. The two, from Bloomer, had never been to the market before and said they had a good time there seeing local vendors and getting into a festive spirit.
I think it keeps people within the city, doing things here and shopping here,” Kelly Zweifelhofer said.
In a tent behind Lazy Monk, vendors Tony Wagener, Joe Morisson and Paul Brehm were staying warm with both their heater and their glassblowing torch. The trio, of Fat Bottom Glass, offered handblown ornaments, figurines, pendants and more, some of which were made on-scene for customers to see.
Not only does the market give the men a chance to sell their products outright and interact with customers, Wagener said it also allowed them to trade products and services with other vendors.
“It affords us the opportunity to do a lot of bartering,” he said.
Brehm noted that 10 years ago, an event like the market would have been out of the question for Eau Claire. But because the city has been growing and developing in recent years, he said it is great to be able to see community members engaging with their city. Christkindlmarkt, he said, is a way for businesses, entrepreneurs and residents to come together and utilize community spaces.
Donna Kuklinski, who purchased an ornament from Fat Bottom Glass, said she has been following the team’s work from the beginning — that’s about 20 years. She thought it was special that customers could watch their ornaments coming to life right in front of them.
“It epitomizes what Christmas is all about,” Kuklinski said. “And if you can look at an ornament and actually see Paul making those ornaments, you get a sense of warmness and family.
Christkindlmarkt will be back for a second round next Saturday, from 12-4 p.m. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org