Bah, humbug: Christkindlmarket won't return to Naperville
Christkindlmarket has served its last schnitzel in downtown Naperville.
The popular German holiday market will not return to Naper Settlement after a three-year run at the historic museum campus.
The festively decorated grounds seemed like the perfect backdrop for the suburban version of the German tradition in Chicago's Daley Plaza.
Last year alone, Christkindlmarket drew 235,000 visitors over its 21-day run through Christmas Eve, with crowds jamming rows of wooden huts that displayed ornate glass ornaments and German confections. Most identifiable with Christkindlmarket are the souvenir mugs filled with spiced wine, cider or hot chocolate.
But the market's popularity didn't resonate with downtown merchants who complained it was taking shoppers and parking spaces away from their stores during the holiday season.
Kate Bleeker, director of expansion and operations for Christkindlmarket operator German American Events, acknowledged the complaints, but said there's "not one specific reason the market" is leaving Naperville.
"Parking is definitely an issue in Naperville, and I know the popularity of the market contributed to some frustrations of the downtown business district," she said Friday.
Prompted by those concerns, the city conducted an analysis that showed Christkindlmarket caused a 10 percent increase in downtown parking garage use, compared with typical use during that same time period. But the analysis found no discernible decrease in downtown food and beverage sales, according to city data.
Bleeker said "it's really just time" for the market to move on. "We have had three wonderful years there and thank everybody, but it's sort of the nature of the market which we've been doing for 23 years."
German American Events will announce its 2019 Christkindlmarket schedule in the next several months. Bleeker said operators are finalizing contracts for market locations, but declined to say if there will be another suburban outpost. Chicago, Naperville and Milwaukee held markets last year.
In an announcement about Christkindlmarket's departure, Naper Settlement officials did not offer an explanation for why "an incredibly successful holiday event for Naperville and the surrounding communities" was not returning. Rena Tamayo-Calabrese, president and CEO of Naper Settlement, did not immediately return a phone call Friday.
"True to our mission, Christkindlmarket has provided a gathering place during the holiday season for people to connect. It was a great event and we take this moment to thank all our visitors for coming to celebrate the holidays with us," Tamayo-Calabrese said in a written statement.
Christkindlmarket generated $7.2 million in economic impact each year, according to the announcement. Bleeker said a research firm in 2017 measured a total economic impact of about $18 million on Naperville as well as Will and DuPage counties, taking into account tax revenues, hotel stays, employment and other metrics.
Naper Settlement "is in conversation to develop a new holiday experience at the museum campus this winter," the museum's statement read.