I enjoy a good Christmas Market. It’s fun to wander through the booths looking at crafts and talking to other shoppers and shopkeepers (who are usually the craftsfolk responsible for the creations we’re oogling). The wooden toys that are often in abundance are my favorite, topped only by the abundance of treats from homemade stroopwafels to gelato and the ever present Gløgg, Glüwein, or Weihnachtspunsch.
I thought that Minneapolis Downtown Council replacing the Holidazzle parade with a European inspired Christmas market would be a huge hit. How could they miss?
The other night some of us suburbanites planned a fun evening in town; dinner with friends, browse the market, and enjoy an evening of the Minnesota Symphony.
Dinner at Zelo did a good job of fulfilling the first item.
We then walked down Nicollet Mall to the Downtown Council’s Holiday Market and ran in to a problem with number two. This was like no Christmas market I’ve ever been to that is open and inviting on all sides, filled with people shopping and happy shopkeepers.
This market was fenced off on all sides, had a singular entrance, and a $6 per person fee to enter. Cash only.
Imagine if you had to pay $6 to walk down Grand Avenue in St Paul. Or to enter downtown White Bear Lake. And there’s nothing like galvanized steel barriers and chainlink fence to create that festive holiday village mood.
The results speak for themselves. There were thousands of people walking by on Nicollet Mall and on 11th street. People walking to dinner, going to the Minnesota Orchestra, walking home from work, meeting friends for drinks.
The market? Dead.
We stood with others and looked from the outside in over the barricades and chainlink fence at the empty market.
Fortunately an excellent concert by the Minnesota Symphony salvaged our night.
Going in to town was once an absolute during the holidays. Not anymore. There is nothing even hinting at festive, much less holidazzling, along Nicollet Mall or elsewhere. And the forlorn market hiding behind it’s unwelcoming barricades only added sadness to my thoughts of what could have been.