by NATHANIEL NELSON
Winona is taking a trip to Europe this weekend, when the first annual Holiday Market fills Levee Park with the sights and smells of the holidays. On Saturday and Sunday, people will be able to shop, have a nice warm drink, skate on the newly minted Levee Park ice rink, and celebrate the holidays in style.
The city of Winona, the Main Street Program, WINONArts, and Winona entrepreneur Alison Bettin of Tiny Spoons have teamed up to create the first annual Winona Holiday Market in Levee Park, to be held on Saturday, December 15, and on Sunday, December 16.
The market is styled after the European Christmas markets that blanket major metropolitan cities across the globe, explained Lee Gundersheimer, Winona’s arts and culture coordinator. A former resident of the Big Apple, he explained that he had always found some comfort in the city’s many artisan markets.
“I’ve been wanting to do a European-style holiday market in Winona for a while. I loved them in New York City, and it’s a great way for artisans to reach a bigger audience,” he said. “People will come out in the winter if you have the right thing.”
Eventually, Gundersheimer bumped into Emily Kushar, Winona Main Street Program coordinator, who explained that she had been talking to Bettin about putting something together for the holidays.
“We started talking in the early part of fall, and blackmailed ourselves by putting out some dates,” Gundersheimer said.
The market will consist of more than 20 different artisan vendors from the area, selling everything from ornaments, to essential oils, to holiday baked goods and handmade hats. For those who need to pick up last minute gifts for their friends and families, the market is a perfect option, Gundersheimer said. Winona carolers will be inviting attendees to join in on Saturday afternoon, and on Sunday the children will get a chance at the action. And of course, no holiday market would be complete without Santa, who will make an appearance from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. and from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, and on Sunday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
The Boat House will also be serving festive holiday drinks, including mulled wine and spiked hot cocoa, so you can grab a drink and sit by the fire on the Mississippi. They’ll be joined by other food trucks, as the market will also act as the kick off of the winter edition of the city’s Let’s Levee events.
“It’s important to find reasons to celebrate community all year long, and to find opportunities for artisans to sell their wares all year long,” Gundersheimer said.
The weekend also serves as the debut of another new winter staple: the Levee Park Ice Skating Rink.
“As part of the discussions for Levee Park, the park committee had always wanted to have something in the park during the winter,” Gundersheimer said. While a permanent rink would have been out of the budget, the Park and Recreation Department wanted one more attraction to make the park more active in the winter, so a temporary rink was chosen.
“It’s basically like building a large outdoor pool,” Gundersheimer explained. “You build it and hope it freezes, and it becomes a pretty substantial block of ice.”
The rink is free to the public and will have its grand opening at the Holiday Market this weekend –– though people have already started skating on it –– and will be open throughout the winter months. Unlike the rink on Lake Winona, the rink will be BYOS, or bring your own skates. However, if you don’t own your own skates, a limited number will be available to borrow this weekend from the city.
Gundersheimer explained that he sees the Holiday Market as the first big community winter event for the new park, and that while the weather might be a deterrent for some, people will still be ready to get out of the house and celebrate the holidays.
“Part of the holiday spirit is to have reasons to celebrate,” Gundersheimer said. “Come out to skate and have a cup of cocoa … it’s about as good as it gets.”
The 2018 Winona Holiday Market will be held on Saturday, December 15, from noon to 8 p.m. and on Sunday, December 16, from noon to 6 p.m. For more information call the Winona Park and Recreation Office at 507-457-8258 or visit the Park and Recreation Department website at https://www.cityofwinona.com/city-services/parks-recreation.