Harmony Christmas market draws large crowd
November 10, 2013
HARMONY — The little borough of Harmony has a large German background. And at no time of the year is that history more on display than during the holiday season. The Harmony Museum kicked off that season this past weekend with its annual Christmas market. The WeihnachtsMarkt, as it is traditionally called, is the attempt to replicate the markets seen in Germany throughout the month before Christmas. Complete with traditional German food, music and crafts, the market pays tribute to the founders of the historic little town. “We have lots of good German events,” said Gwen Lutz, the chairman of the market for the Harmony Museum. Lutz said while the market, which is the borough’s largest event each year, is quite the spectacle, it is only a glimpse of what a true German Christmas Market is like. “In Germany they shut down the town square for a month,” she said. “The whole town becomes just a big open market.” While the borough is unable to mimic such a feat, the two-day festival is a major attraction, drawing nearly 5,000 people. More than 50 vendors filled downtown this year, making it the largest that Harmony has had during its nearly 20-year run. The market not only serves as a fun community event, it also is the main fundraiser for the museum. John Ruch, a leading organizer for the event, said it is a crucial aspect to the town. “It’s very important to the community,” he said. “Harmony is a well-kept secret. To bring this many people into town, it’s a big deal.” Ruch said the market is leading the way in a series of events the museum holds throughout the year in attempts to highlight the town’s unique history. “We started to recognize that the town’s history is probably the most important economic factor we have,” he said. “We’re trying very hard to become a destination.” And a destination it was for both artisans and spectators. Rose Hughes traveled more than four hours from Turbotville, Pa., to sell traditional German roasted nuts. “We’ve been coming to the festival for five years now,” said Hughes, who travels with her husband, David. Like many of the vendors, Hughes was dressed in traditional German attire for the market. She said she looks forward to the trip to Harmony each year. “I love it here,” she said. “It’s very quaint.” Not all the vendors came from afar for the market. Gregg Kristophel of Harmony was a key attraction, as he has been every year since the market began. Kristophel crafts wooden kitchenware by hand. Starting with a block of wood, he carves away until a perfectly smoothed utensil is created. “I’ve been doing this about 30 years now,” he said. Kristophel said the museum is what originally got him interested in the craft, which he now shows off at various festivals throughout the year. But he said none top his hometown’s Christmas market. “Oh, it’s my favorite,” he said. “It brings a lot of people into the town, which is great for the museum. Toni Hubert of Mars was one of the numerous spectators impressed with the variety of crafts on display. Her two boys Aiden, 6, and Liam, 4, were more excited about the different treats available. “I like the doughnuts,” Liam said, still with a bit of powdered sugar on his face.