Holiday market comes to Harmony
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It will take more than 200 pounds of potato salad, thousands of volunteer hours and numerous crafters and vendors to bring Germany to Harmony on Saturday and Sunday for the 22nd Christmas Market.
Fashioned after the Christmas markets in Germany, Historic Harmony will hold its WeinhnachtsMarkt in Harmony's National Historic landmark district.
"Initially, the idea was to have a craft market before Christmas like they do in Germany and as a tie to our German heritage of the area. We didn't expect it to become as big as it has," said John Ruch, president of Historic Harmony, a nonprofit volunteer historical society that operates Harmony Museum. The market is the group's major fundraiser.
The event draws 4,000 to 5,000 visitors to the small town. "We always have folks from Germany who may be visiting or in the area for work show up," Mr. Ruch said. "And they say, 'This really is like what we have back home.' And sometimes they offer suggestions on how to improve it."
The market has become a townwide event, not just the museum's, Mr. Ruch said.
"We have had several small, retail shops open and they are welcoming this event with open arms. We love that this has become a town event," he said. Many of the shops will have extended hours.
The Christmas Market also brings people to Harmony for the first time. "Some of them have never even heard of Harmony before this," he said.
Gwen Lutz, chairwoman of the market, said she spends more than 1,800 volunteer hours organizing the event. She is assisted by a committee of nine other volunteers and Kathy Luek, the part-time museum administrator.
"We work year-round," Mrs. Lutz said. "Well, we do take off the month of December."
It is Mrs. Luek's job to oversee the potato salad.
"We make over 150 pounds of potato salad on Thursday to allow it to marinate, then have to make about 50 more pounds over the weekend," she said.
German food is part of the weekend, with offerings including German potato salad, stuffed cabbage, hot pretzels, bratwurst, sauerbraten, potato pancakes and, of course, Gluwien, the hot-spiced wine so popular in German Christmas markets. The drink is served in special mugs designed for the event each year and have become collector's items.
"We really play up the uniqueness of the German things," Mrs. Luek said.
Mrs. Lutz said the participating vendors and crafters must make their goods in Pennsylvania, with the exception of an importer who sells items from Germany, including nutcrackers and smokers, popular holiday dolls from Germany.
"This isn't your typical arts-and-crafts show. We have unique items that you can't buy anywhere else. And many of our crafters wear period costumes and demonstrate their crafts," she said. More than 40 vendors and crafters will sell their wares at the event, which will include an antique show with more than 16 dealers.
One of the vendors is Paul Claus of West Deer, returning for his fifth year.
"We have repeat customers from year to year," said Mr. Claus, who offers unusual products such as jackware, or leather items; tin ware; treenware, small items handcrafted from wood; and scherenschnitte, designs cut from paper. "People can't just go to the mall and buy it. They have to look for venues like the WeinhnachtsMarkt."
Mr. Claus said one of the most enjoyable parts of event is seeing other artisans.
"These are friends we have made at other shows whom we only see a couple of times a year. The 'forgotten arts' community is small, and you get to know everyone in it, either personally or by reputation," he said.
Several German performers will entertain; Santa and Mrs. Claus will be available for photos.
"If it is cold, we will have fires in barrels, just like they do in Germany, and horse-drawn wagon rides through town," she said.
On Saturday, the day will end with Christmas carols and the lighting of the Christmas tree.
"It's the closest thing you are going to find to the open-air Christmas markets in Germany in our area," Mrs. Lutz said.
The Christmas market will be open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. Admission: $7, adults; $5, seniors; $3, students; free, children younger than 6. Admission includes access to the market, museum tours, entertainment, wagon rides. Proceeds benefit Historic Harmony and the museum.
Information: www.harmonymuseum.org/Christmas-Market.html or 724-452-7341.
First Published November 8, 2012 5:27 am