DES PLAINES, Ill. (CBS) — Spiced wine, hot pretzels, potato pancakes – normally, they’re the treats that would accompany the sights and sounds of Christkindlmarket at Daley Plaza and in Wrigleyville right now.
But this year, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the holiday tradition is 100 percent virtual.
CBS 2’s Tim McNicholas got a behind-the-scenes look at the unprecedented event.
“We knew we had to do something,” said Maren Biester Priebe, chief executive officer of German American Events LLC.
What might look like Santa’s workshop is actually a warehouse in Des Plaines. But if you ask Kate Bleeker and the Christkindlmarket team that is working there, the warehouse is full of holiday cheer.
“This will definitely be a very memorable year.” Bleeker said. “Just because we can’t all be together on Daley Plaza or Wrigley Field or Milwaukee doesn’t mean the spirit of the Christkindlmarket can’t be with them.”
This year, more than 47 vendors are on Christkindlmarket’s virtual marketplace, where you can buy ornaments, puzzles, mugs, and tasty treats from hot chocolate to traditional German wine spices.
“And then, of course, making the fresh pretzels as well so you can have all the tastes of the market,” Bleeker said.
Your order can be shipped anywhere in the continental U.S., or you can arrange a contactless pickup in Des Plaines.
Warehouse employees are packing hundreds of boxes per day.
“Majority of our vendors are small businesses, and they depend on these sales to be able to come back and be in person with you in 2021,” Priebe said.
The warehouse isn’t just for holiday joy. It’s run by Gebruder Weiss, a logistics company that has worked with Christkindlmarket for years.
“So we stored it for them throughout the year,” said Gebruder Weis sales manager Merlin Dow.
Dow is from Germany, and now he’s happy to help keep the spirit alive in Chicago.
“Hopefully by next season, we’re going to be able to help them set it up in the downtown location,” he said.
You can ship snacks and souvenirs, but delivering the experience is a little more challenging. So the team launched a calendar full of virtual events, and they’ll be posting videos of cooking demonstrations and story time for kids on Christkindlmarket.com.
“It’s just one of those traditions that’s just so awesome and lovely and get all the warm fuzzies,” Priebe said.
As for the classic setup that brings thousands of people together, they hope to see you there next year.
In 2019, the market sold some stuff online, so Christkindlmarket has a bit of experience with a virtual market.
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