HARMONY — It's not even the middle of November, but some folks already are saying Merry Christmas, or maybe “Froehliche Weihnachten.”
The 22nd annual WeihnachtsMarkt, which is a German Christmas market, held Saturday and Sunday brought a little taste of Christmas from across the Atlantic Ocean to southwestern Butler County.
Gwen Lutz, festival chairwoman, said the festival makes sense given the Teutonic roots of the borough, which was founded in 1804 by members of the German Harmony Society.
“It's a very German town. Very German in origin,” Lutz said.
The event featured crafts and antiques, with 40 vendors and a dozen antiques dealers, as well as German food, drinks and music. Additionally, there were horse-drawn wagon rides and even a visit from Santa Claus.
Lutz said between 5,000 and 6,000 people could attend over both days.
John Ruch, president of Historic Harmony, said the festival has grown quite a bit since it started. He said the nearly 100 volunteers who put the event together make it run smoothly.
“The key is volunteers,” Ruch said.
Cindy Abbott of Heidelberg, Allegheny County, said her family's German background is no secret.
“We have extreme German heritage,” Abbott said.
She said she has traveled to Germany. Although the event has nowhere near the scale of an entire country, she said it is like a small piece of Germany.
“It's just a little bit of it every year,” Abbott said.
Betty Weller of Gibsonia has German heritage, but she said her husband actually has been to Germany. He was stationed there in the 1950s while in the U.S. Army.
“He said he had been to the Christmas market over there,” Weller said.
Joe and Ingrid Medzius of Cranberry Township said they are regular attendees.
“We enjoy the Harmony area,” said Joe Medzius, whose father is German.
Ingrid Medzius said they enjoy supporting local businesses and find the people in the borough to be great.
“You can't talk Harmony up enough,” she said.
Patrick McIntyre of Dormont, Allegheny County, recently retired and he and his wife have been looking at new ways to spend their free time.
“We came up with this,” McIntyre said.
He said he believes the event brings the old days back, in a way.
“It's unique,” McIntyre said.
Bill and April Chamberlin of Kittanning recently moved back to the western part of the state from Gettysburg. Before this, it had been five years since they attended.
“We were very happy to come back to this,” April Chamberlin said.
They originally came because their son's high school German teacher told them about it.
“It got us hooked on it,” she said.
When the weather is nice, like it was Saturday, the whole festival shines, Bill Chamberlin said.
“I think it is a really nice way to show off the little town of Harmony,” he said.