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Over 80 regional artists saw boost in revenue at newly-adapted market

December 15, 2020 | Written by Gabriela Laracca

Christkindlmarkt Bethlehem, presented by Univest Financial®, which took place Oct. 8 – Dec. 6, returned this year with an all-new outdoor format featuring over 80 total artisans and vendors, delicious food and family-friendly events, sponsored by NJM Insurance, Crayola and Just Born Quality Confections, like Zoom with St. Nick and Cooking with St. Nick (via Zoom), which are both still going on through Sunday, Dec. 20. After implementing several changes to this year’s edition of the popular market, one goal remained steadfast: uniting the Lehigh Valley with local businesses and artists, safely in the Christmas City.

“Univest Financial was proud to serve as presenting sponsor of Christkindlmarkt for the third consecutive year, which was especially important during these challenging times to provide a safe way to support local businesses and enjoy the arts and culture of our local region,” said Annette D. Szygiel, Executive Vice President and Chief Experience Officer at Univest Financial. “We applaud the efforts of the ArtsQuest team for making the necessary adjustments for health and safety to allow this favorite annual tradition to continue. For more than 144 years, Univest has been dedicated to supporting our local communities and we have remained steadfast to that even during the pandemic.”

Named one of the Top 3 Holiday Markets in North America by USA Today’s 10Best in 2019, Christkindlmarkt Bethlehem celebrated its 28th year with more than 60 of the nation’s finest vendors and artisans cycling each weekend, an authentic German St. Nicholas with both virtual and in-person events, family activities and more. Established in 1993 to complement tourism efforts in the Christmas City during the holidays, the event has long focused on showcasing the region’s small businesses and talented artisans. While vendors came from 7 states, approximately 72% of the participants are from the Lehigh Valley and surrounding areas of Eastern Pennsylvania.

Neville Gardner, owner of Donegal Square McCarthy’s Red Stag Pub, shared that his profits at the market exceeded last year’s by almost 30%.

“The economic impact for Bethlehem’s restaurants and retailers has been huge; the market was very safe and successful for everyone involved and exceeded our expectations,” said Gardner, whose also President of the Downtown Bethlehem Association. “Thanks to all the team at ArtsQuest for having the strength, dedication and resilience to put on Christkindlmarkt this year; they continue to be an outstanding community partner.”

Other artisans and vendors also relayed nothing but positive feedback.

“You don’t fully know what Christkindlmarkt has meant to small businesses like ours – the emotional and spiritual lift it has given our spirits at this time has been priceless,” said Noel Tiebro, Owner of Handmade Bow. “This was our first year and hopefully not the last because this production was a class act, from start to finish.”

“The event was organized well, social distancing was handled well and every person was wearing a mask,” said Tim and Saliha Robson, Owners of Me & My Dog Pet Bakery, LLC. “Customers were happy to see the event go forward and mentioned that safety precautions were well organized. This was tremendously helpful to our business and family during this pandemic and we look forward to Christkindlmarkt 2021!”

While Christkindlmarkt may be over, ArtsQuest will continue to produce virtual events centered around our beloved St. Nicholas through Sunday, Dec. 20, continuing a nearly 30-year tradition for children and families in the Lehigh Valley and beyond. These events include the previously listed Zoom with St. Nick and Cooking with St. Nick (via Zoom).

This year was the first-ever that ArtsQuest connected families with St. Nick virtually, so that children could have the opportunity to create lifelong memories safely from their homes. All the families who participated were eager to be able to celebrate the holidays in this new and unique way. Danielle Koren, a mother whose family happily chatted with St. Nick via Zoom, was thrilled with the experience.

“It was such an amazing experience for the kids and we absolutely loved it,” said Koren. “We hope that ArtsQuest continues to do this next year, hopefully during non-pandemic times, because this was such a special memory.”

New this year, St. Nick’s Holiday Garage Sale Fundraisers have taken place the past few weekends and will continue this weekend on Saturday, Dec. 19 from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. We’ve offered up a trove of items at these events, accumulated over the past few years of hosting Christkindlmarkt. Guests will also have the opportunity to support us during these unprecedented times by purchasing an ArtsQuest gift card, which are also available online. Visitors also have the chance to win a 2020 Musikfest Mug with the purchase of a $50 gift card. These sales take place at the Banana Factory Arts Center at 25 W. 3rd Street in Bethlehem.

Aside from virtually adapting some aspects of this annual market, ArtsQuest took several initiatives to ensure the safety of all visitors, volunteers, artists and staff. With health and safety always our top priority, we adopted a number of measures, in accordance with CDC guidelines, including following state mandated capacity restrictions, social distancing measures (which include restrictions on movement and tables/chairs spaced 6 ft or more apart), proper mask usage – over the nose and mouth – required other than when seated and eating or drinking, and regular cleaning of facilities, including all major touch points. We also invested in sanitation and disinfection products such as electrostatic sprayers, UV lamps, and more.

Christkindlmarkt has evolved over these past 28 years and with this year’s unique needs, it has proven to continue being a safe place for our community and surrounding regions to come together and support local businesses and artists. It is an honor for ArtsQuest to have provided our community with the ability to support each other safely when it was needed most.

“This pandemic has had an immense impact on ArtsQuest, but our main goal of supporting small businesses and local artists during these trying times remains steadfast,” said Kassie Hilgert, CEO of ArtsQuest. “We would like to thank the City of Bethlehem and all our dedicated crafters and patrons for aiding us in making sure Christkindlmarkt could take place in the Christmas City safely this year. It is incredibly important for us all to feel some sort of normalcy during these trying times, and we are honored that Christkindlmarkt could inspire hope in our community for the future, when we can all celebrate together again.”

Christkindlmarkt, presented by Univest Financial®, has been twice recognized by Travel + Leisure as one of the nation’s best holiday markets. In addition to Univest Financial®, partners helping make Christkindlmarkt possible include Bazella Group, Burkholder’s Heating and Air Conditioning Inc., Crayola, D. G. Yuengling & Son, Kistler O’Brien Fire Protection, Lehigh Valley International Airport (ABE), NJM Insurance and Service Electric Cable TV & Communications, along with media partners 69-WFMZ-TV, 99.9 The Hawk, 100.7 WLEV, Cat Country 96, Adams Outdoor, B104, NewsRadio 790 WAEB, 95.1 WZZO and Tri Outdoor.