German Christmas Market celebrates 10 years on the boardwalk

| 15 Feb 2012 | 10:19

Sparta — The sights and scents and tastes of the holidays will fill the Lake Mohawk Boardwalk on the first weekend of December as the German Christmas Market continues its decade-long tradition in Sparta. Set to open on Saturday Dec. 3 and Sun. Dec. 4, the Weihnachtsmarkt will once again usher in the holiday season with its unique array of one-of-a-kind gifts, holiday crafts and décor, and festive food and drink. Sponsored by Bayer Healthcare, Eastern Propane, and Newton Memorial Hospital, the event will feature musical entertainment and a quality selection of more than 65 vendors, offering everything from fine art to handmade ornaments to Scandinavian woolen goods. With a wide selection of seasonal and traditional food and drink, from kettle corn to sauerbraten and from mulled wine to hot cocoa, the German Christmas Market plans something for everyone. The idea for an annual German Christmas Market came about when a group of volunteers wanted to raise funds for local charities through a unique event on Sparta’s historic boardwalk along Lake Mohawk. The event was well received and has been attended by nearly 6,500 people each year, becoming an anticipated tradition and the premier holiday event in Sparta. “Over the years, the generosity of the sponsors has allowed us to organize this unique event in this truly wonderful setting,” said Judy Beelaert, vendor chairperson for Weihnachtsmarkt. According to event organizers, more than $50,000 has been donated to local organizations who support those in need since the first Weihnachtsmarkt in 2001. Last year, donations were made to the Sparta Ecumenical Food Pantry of Sparta, the Partnership for Social Services Family Center of Franklin, Meals on Wheels of Franklin, United Way of Sussex County, DASI (Domestic Abuse Services) of Newton, the Samaritan Inn of Franklin and Coupons for the Community, of Bryam. Gudron Rank, one of the orginal organizers of the German Christmas Market, said the goal of the event is to continue to make donations to these charities and to give back to the community. She said, “Every year we’ve gotten bigger and bigger and hopefully we can continue this way.” Rank said the event is expanding this year and will extend across the street from the boardwalk to the parking lot of Krogh’s. She said Krogh’s will be putting up a tent there and will have live music, food, and drink. Arthur’s St. Moritz restaurant will also be getting into the German Christmas Market spirit by offering an authentic German menu on Saturday, Dec. 3. Arthur’s will donate a portion of the proceeds to the charities supported by the Market. The Weihnachtsmarkt has also made donations to the German Language Departments of the Sparta School System, in the form of scholarships, as well as to all schools that performed at the event, such as, the German Language School of Morris County. The German Christmas Market will be open from 10:00 am until 9:00 pm on Saturday, Dec. 3 and from 10:00 am until 5:00 pm on Sunday, Dec. 4. For more information about the event, go to Coupons for the Community has two-year anniversary One of the charity organizations supported by the German Christmas Market, Coupons for the Community, got its start at the 2009 German Christmas Market. Founded by Byram resident, Suzanne Stigers, the group started with five volunteers and now has an active group of 25 volunteers who collect monetary donations and unwanted or unused store coupons to purchase food and toiletry items for local food pantries. They began donating primarily to the Sussex County Ecumenical Food Pantry, located at the First Presbyterian Church in Sparta and have now expanded their donations to include 25 different food pantries, soup kitchens, and social service agencies in Morris, Passaic, Warren, and Bergen counties as well. Stigers said the group is able to purchase much-needed items for these pantries for pennies on the dollar using the coupons. She said for every dollar they spend with coupons, they can purchase $10 worth of food. Last year Coupons for the Community donated $125,000 worth of food to help needy families, surpassing their goal of $100,000. Stigers said this year they are on track to donate over $100,000 again. Now approaching their two-year anniversary, Coupons for the Community will have a much larger and more prominent presence at this year’s German Christmas Market and will be accepting donations of unwanted coupons as well as non-perishable food items and toiletries. Stigers emphasized that, “No contribution is too small. With a $1 donation, we can buy five pounds of pasta with coupons.” For more information or to get involved with Coupons for the Community, go to