D.C.’s holiday markets make adjustments due to coronavirus

Laveta Brigham

The Downtown Holiday Market returns to Penn Quarter this weekend with a greatly enlarged footprint: Instead of packing a gauntlet of booths on both sides of a crowded sidewalk, this year finds 60 booths spanning two city blocks, set in the middle of F Street NW between Seventh and Ninth […]

The Downtown Holiday Market returns to Penn Quarter this weekend with a greatly enlarged footprint: Instead of packing a gauntlet of booths on both sides of a crowded sidewalk, this year finds 60 booths spanning two city blocks, set in the middle of F Street NW between Seventh and Ninth streets.

Michael Berman, the executive director of organizers Diverse Markets Management, says the holiday market will follow rules similar to farmers markets: There’s only one entrance and exit, near the steps of the National Portrait Gallery, allowing staff to monitor capacity and make sure all visitors are wearing masks. Once inside, customers will have to walk in a counterclockwise direction around all the vendors, though they won’t be limited to one loop around the market, in case they decide that the perfect gift really was at a booth near the entrance. Capacity will be limited to a maximum of 250 shoppers at a time, Berman says, though the ideal number is a little lower for social distancing.

Like all in-person events taking place this year, the Downtown Holiday Market is expected to be less hands-on, Berman says: “Not a lot of touching of product, not a lot of cash going around. I don’t think there will be a lot of ‘let me try on that scarf.’ ” He’s urged vendors who sell candles, soap and other scented products to change their approach: “Customers can’t put their noses inside a candle,” he says. “Put that aroma on a test strip,” like perfume at a cosmetics store, that can be thrown away after it’s sniffed.

Other annual markets have decided to forgo the in-person experience altogether and move online. Grump, which has featured local makers at pop-ups at ZooLights, Artisphere and the underground Shops at Crystal City, is known for its whimsy, such as staff dressed as yetis, as much as it is for the array of artisans. “Our challenge this year, in making it virtual, is to not only offer our usual assortment of amazing and diverse vendors, but also to offer that unique ‘in-person’ experience,” says co-founder Beth Baldwin.

To stand out from Etsy and other marketplaces, Grump, taking place next weekend, plans to host a virtual festival with bingo, tarot readings and show-and-tell sessions. Since customers can’t meet or greet the crafters, Grump’s creative team will feature “behind the scenes” videos on social media, showing how objects were created. It’s not perfect, but after the year we’ve had, finding ways to bring people together at the holidays feels like a win.

Virtual markets

Czech Christmas Market: The Embassy of the Czech Republic hosts a true only-in-Washington event each November, opening its doors and welcoming the public to browse sparkling ornaments and gorgeous glassware. This year, the embassy has curated a list of local and international vendors selling ornaments, baked goods, wine and English-language books. Through Dec. 10. mzv.cz/washington/en/.

Grump at Home: The 10-year-old Grump festival has earned a devoted following for its mix of vendors, which include stuffed animals, whimsical prints, cards, ceramics and jewelry, and this year is its biggest yet, with more than 50 participants. “If there was one bright side to having a virtual Grump this year, it’s that we could include people who weren’t local,” says Baldwin, such as ZooGuu, a Massachusetts-based creator of plush taxidermy, that the Grump organizers discovered at the trailblazing Crafty Bastards.

Baldwin and co-founder Tina Seamonster are trying to re-create the spirit of Grump with a mix of online events, such as bingo, and the opportunity to have gifts hand-delivered by a yeti (at least in Washington and its immediate suburbs). Nov. 27 to Dec. 1. grumpathome.com.

Holiday Heap: The Charm City Craft Mafia is a guild of Baltimore-based makers that organizes two major festivals each year, including the Holiday Heap. This year’s online-only version features more than 50 vendors, and while the Craft Mafia’s events are noted for being strong on prints and cards, ceramics and clothing, there’s plenty to explore. Dec. 4-6. charmcitycraft­mafia.com.

Hoptimist Holiday Market: Moving online after years of in-real-life events isn’t easy, and for some organizers, there’s strength in numbers. The Heurich House Museum, which has run a weekend-long German-style Christmas market in the mansion’s back garden for the last eight years, has joined forces with DC Brau, who’ve run their own one-day holiday market at the brewery, to create the Hoptimist Market.

While the dozens of local vendors are selling a wide mix of gifts — letterpress cards, jewelry, jerky, ceramics — organizers are trying to make the market more personal by uploading interviews with makers discussing their process and inspirations, and how they’ve been affected by the pandemic. “We wish we could stroll through the garden with a glass of gluhwein,” says Kimberly Bender, the executive director of the Heurich House. “Where we can make up for that is giving people a warm, glowing feeling knowing that their purchases benefit one of their neighbors.” Nov. 27 to Dec. 11. Virtual early bird access, which allows shopping two days before the general public, costs $15. hoptimist.shop.

In-person markets

Del Ray Artisans 25th Annual Fine Art and Holiday Craft Market: The Del Ray Artisans’ annual market is less crafty than some other holiday shopping events — think mosaics, stained glass, pottery and fiber-art wall hangings, though you will also find organic soaps and handbags. What sets this Alexandria event apart, though, is that different local artists fill the space on three consecutive weekends, practically guaranteeing that a return trip is necessary. For social distancing purposes, admission to the gallery is limited to 10 people at a time; free reservations are suggested for opening nights on Fridays. Dec. 4 to 20. Open Friday from 6 to 9 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. 2704 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria. delrayartisans.org.

Downtown Holiday Market: The expanded holiday market now fills two blocks of F Street, making room for 60 booths and a half-dozen food and drink stands. While the market continues its focus on sustainable and fair-trade products, new additions for this year include booths focusing on local fashion designers and Black and minority-owned businesses.

While there’s no live entertainment, a jumbotron screen will show videos of local bands performing original and holiday tunes, as well as seasonal movies. Worth noting: While many vendors are staying for the entire month, a new selection will rotate in on Dec. 8. Nov. 20 through Dec. 23. Open from noon to 8 p.m.; closed Thanksgiving Day and three Mondays (Nov. 30, Dec. 7 and 14). Entrance in front of the National Portrait Gallery, Eighth and F streets NW. downtownholidaymarket.com.

Sandy Spring Museum Fine Arts and Crafts Holiday Gift Show: The Sandy Spring Museum is known as a living history museum, but it also functions as a “cultural arts community center,” home to 11 artist studios for potters, painters and metalsmiths. The annual Holiday Gift Show features works from Sandy Spring’s resident artists, as well as quilters, jewelers and glass blowers from the wider community. Local authors are also on hand to sign their books. Nov. 27 through Dec. 23. Open Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. 17901 Bentley Rd., Sandy Spring. sandyspring­museum.org/giftshow.

Shop Made in D.C. at the Roost: On the first three Sundays in December, the newest Shop Made in D.C. outpost on Pennsylvania Avenue SE is expanding into the food hall at the Roost, offering a more socially distanced shopping experience. Expect the same wide selection of products from D.C. artists and markers — masks, beauty products, clothing, holiday cards — organized into curated sections, such as “Cozy Home” and “Entertainer.” Look for locally made beer, wine and spirits, and don’t be shy about tasting — admission includes a cocktail or mocktail. Dec. 6, 13 and 20 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. $10 entry. eventbrite.com.

3 Stars Brewing Holiday Market: The annual holiday market at D.C.’s 3 Stars Brewing continues this year in a modified format: Craft vendors, cigar rollers, cocktails and artists set up in the brewery’s beer hall and on its freshly expanded and heated outdoor patio. (There will also be beers to sample, of course.) Tickets go on sale on Thanksgiving, and co-founder Dave Coleman says admission “will be extremely limited to be socially distanced and safe.” Dec. 12 from 2 to 7 p.m. $10, includes first beer. 3starsbrewing.com.

Victura Park Holiday Market: Victura Park was one of the surprise debuts of the summer, transforming the grassy areas around the Kennedy Center’s Reach expansion into a sunny beer garden. Starting on Black Friday, the park welcomes a holiday market with a rotating lineup of artists and makers each weekend. After browsing, get a glass of spiked hot chocolate or cider and sit at one of the socially distanced tables warmed by heat lamps. Nov. 27 through Dec. 20. Open Friday from 4 to 8 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from noon to 8 p.m. 2700 F St. NW. victuraparkdc.com.

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