2020 Denver holiday markets: What's new, what's canceled, what's virtual

2020 Denver holiday markets: What's new, what's canceled, what's virtual

November 7, 2020

Throughout the summer and into this fall, the Boulder County Farmers Markets encouraged shoppers to make an appointment for a 20-minute window to get in, grab some fresh veggies and get out.

The markets, held each week in Longmont, Boulder, Lafayette and Denver, were stripped down to the bare essentials of grocery shopping: no food samples, no live music, no artisan shows, no seating, one-way traffic flows.

And while the new rules of the farmers markets worked just fine for local produce, meats and pastries, the overall vibe they created just didn’t feel quite right for the holiday season. That’s why the organization made the tough decision to cancel its annual holiday market, which is usually held in Longmont over a weekend in the middle of December.

“That’s not the way holiday shopping works,” said Brian Coppom, Boulder County Farmers Markets executive director. “It’s really browsing and then some relaxing, and then you go back. It doesn’t really work well for discovery. I was trying to imagine this thing of like, ‘Hey, let’s go spend 20 minutes walking one way and seeing these vendors and hoping we make the right buying decisions along the way because it’s really hard to rethink what we’ve done.’ It just didn’t make sense.”

It’s tough to be in pretty much any business right now, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, but live events — including holiday markets — are having a particularly tough time. If you always look forward to doing your holiday shopping at the dozens of markets, marts and pop-up events throughout Colorado in November and December, you’ll want to adjust your expectations this year.

Some markets are straight-up not happening. Others have moved to new venues to accommodate the need for socially distanced shopping and vendor spaces Some have created online shopping portals to better support the makers, artists and crafters that depend so heavily on holiday shopping sales.

In recent years, the Junior League of Denver‘s long-running holiday market has been held at Gates Field House at the University of Denver. This year, though, organizers had secured a new, much larger venue and were fully prepared to host a three-day, in-person holiday market with COVID-19 protocols in mid-November, they ultimately decided to cancel and pursue an all-virtual market instead.

As of last week, the Junior League fully planned the in-person market, complete with a reservation system for shoppers, a separate heated outdoor tent and temperature checks for vendors and volunteers. In addition, they also created a new online option for people who weren’t comfortable shopping in person this year.

But on Wednesday, a little more than a week before the in-person market was set to begin, they decided to scrap those plans and shift to an all-online approach because of rising case numbers and tight attendee limits.

“We are disappointed, but the safety of all involved is the most important factor to us,” said Vanessa Banker, a spokeswoman for the organization.

The virtual market at jld.org will be through Dec. 31.

The Fetch Holiday Market (formerly Denver Flea) is also shaking things up this year. In the past, the market has had a festival-style vibe in large venues like Union Station and Denver Sports Castle; everyone shopped at the same time over a series of weekends in late November and early December.

This year, that model just isn’t possible, said Blake Adams, Fetch’s founder. So Fetch is partnering with the Cherry Creek North Business Improvement District to hold a smaller outdoor market called Cherry Creek Holiday Market.

Instead of funneling all shopping into three weekends, the market will be open all week long from Nov. 19 to Dec. 23. The two organizations also are capping the number of vendors at 35 each day.

Organizers are shutting down Fillmore Street between 1st and 2nd avenues so that the entire market can be held outdoors. Working with furloughed Denver Center for Performing Arts set-builders, the organizers are transforming shipping containers into magical holiday vendor spaces with a European flair.

“We knew we needed to do something for the holidays,” Adams said. “Our large-format market with 175 vendors, 10,000 people — that just wasn’t feasible, so we knew we had to pivot.”

Like other market organizers, Adams said he wanted to support local small businesses in their most profitable season by holding at least some version of the holiday market, even if it looked totally different than in years past.

“So many of these small businesses rely on their wholesale accounts, and retailers were pulling back and canceling those wholesale orders so they could survive,” he said. “All the trade shows were canceled and most markets were also canceled, and so this was an important time just given the holidays and the fact that Q4 is like 80 percent of a lot of peoples’ year.”

The popular Denver Christkindl Market is also moving to a much larger venue. This year, the market will be held at Civic Center park from Nov. 20 to Dec. 23. Even with the additional room to spread out, organizers will be closely watching the number of attendees and enforcing strict caps based on current Denver COVID-19 restrictions.

The German American Chamber of Commerce’s Colorado Chapter, which organizes the market, had been contemplating a larger venue for some time. With the new normal of the pandemic, it just made sense to make the move this year.

“Of course we love this event, and we think if there’s ever been a year where people are going to need the holiday spirit, it’s this one,” said William Reed, the chapter’s executive director. “We considered what it might look like for us to cancel, but we also know that a lot of businesses depend on us, especially when so many other events were canceled throughout the year.”

Instead of a big festival tent with communal tables for eating, drinking and socializing, the market will be completely open-air. Masks will be required on-site, and organizers are asking guests to head to a table to eat or drink (they’re following Colorado restaurant rules and protocols).

“We definitely know that’s a little tough sometimes because people like to walk and talk and enjoy their mug of glühwein and shopping, but we’re going to be requiring people to take their food and drinks to a table,” Reed said.

Also expect to see increased security, more cleaning crews, plexiglass on some vendor stations and other coronavirus-related changes. On a positive note, keep an eye out for some on-trend theme days and activities, like an ugly mask day (instead of an ugly sweater day).

There also will be some unique market entertainment that can be enjoyed from a distance, including aerial performers. And if you don’t feel like heading outdoors, you can shop via a new online marketplace.

“The Christmas markets in Germany have all sorts of stuff there — rollercoasters and things like that — so we think there’s some wiggle room while staying authentically German,” Reed said.

2020 Colorado holiday markets

  • Horseshoe Market is hosting an outdoor market at The Galleria at the Denver Performing Arts Complex Nov. 28-29 with more than 50 vendors and free admission. Masks are required.
  • Denver Bazaar is encouraging shoppers to peruse the wares of more than 50 local makers online.
  • The Jackalope Indie Artisan Fair is being held online Nov. 28- Dec. 18 and will feature the work of more than 100 makers, artisans and crafters.
  • The Denver Botanic Gardens winter gift market has been canceled because of COVID-19.
  • The Eagle Winter Market and Holiday Fair is also canceled.
  • The Foothills Art Center Holiday Art Market (HART) will take place Nov. 17-Dec. 29 in Golden. The market will feature timed tickets and attendee caps, a one-way flow of traffic, temperature checks for staff and volunteers, Zoom shopping opportunities and an experimental online store. Masks are required.

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