Add another event to the list of COVID-19-related cancellations around the county.
At its August board meeting, the Harmony Museum opted to cancel the annual WeihnachtsMarkt, its German-themed Christmas market, out of an abundance of caution for its volunteers and in the belief the event could not take place with limitations on how many people could attend.
“One of the biggest ones is we depend on more than 100 volunteers to help with admissions and staffing and the food, and we couldn't see how we could have volunteers interacting with people at the admissions or selling things,” museum President Rodney Gasch said. “We just didn't see how we could keep our volunteers safe. Many of them are over 65.”
He also added that the 250-person gathering limitation would have been prohibitive for the museum's annual function.
“We typically draw much more than that every hour at the Christmas market, so we couldn't see how we could abide by the state mandate and still have the event,” Gasch said.
The cancellation of the museum's Christmas celebration is another setback to its fundraising for the year, which has been hampered by other cancellations and earlier prohibitions on renting out its historic sites. Gasch called the WeihnachtsMarkt a “significant fundraiser” for the museum, potentially placing a “big hole” in its budget.
Not only that, he said, it also hurts the vendors who provide some of the unique crafts that attract people to the Harmony area for the Christmas event.
Supplanting the Christmas market, at least for 2020, is an event called “Saturday Artisans in Harmony,” a six-week program featuring outside vendors designed to draw more people to the area and to offset financial hardships for the vendors.
“We're hoping to have six to 10 vendors each Saturday,” Gasch said. “That's a goal.”
Starting Sept. 12 and lasting each Saturday through Nov. 14, with vendors stationed around the borough from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., the artisans will sell their wares to residents and visitors alike.
“We don't want to call it a replacement for the Christmas market,” Gasch said, adding it will help support the dozens of vendors who attend the annual WeihnachtsMarkt.
While there won't be a Gluhwein hut or some of the other features that draw people to the Christmas market, Gasch still framed it as a potential opportunity to make up for some of the lost experience.
“I think Saturday Artisans in Harmony will be a good way to get an early start on Christmas shopping and find those unique crafts that are normally bought at the Harmony Christmas market,” he said.