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Thousands Converge On Annual Lake Mohawk German Christmas Market

Jason E. Kennedy

Wednesday, December 5, 2012 • 1:10pm

SPARTA, NJ - Setting off the holiday spirit, the Lake Mohawk German Christmas Market treated residents of Sparta, and visitors, to a much needed healing after Hurricane Sandy. 

Pleasantly held at the historic boardwalk located in the Bavarian-Styled Lake Mohawk Plaza, vendors gathered on Saturday, December 1, and Sunday, December 2, to showcase goods and services, while Christmas carols, such as Alvin and the Chipmunks’ “The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late)", and other favorites, played over large speakers, that could be heard even out in the outlying parking areas. 

Having originated in Germany, Christmas Markets date back to the late Middle Ages. The opening of the Christmas Market, or "Weihnachtsmarkt," is celebrated with food, drink, and seasonal items. 

Despite the cold weather visitors mingled both outdoors and in the Lake Mohawk Clubhouse, to the sights, sounds, and smells of a holiday festive atmosphere, with an ambiance all its own. Freshly popped kettle corn, Glühwein (a hot German mulled spiced wine), gingerbread, and sizzling German sausages, were on the list of “must tries.” And who could resist a cup of hand-warming hot chocolate?

The German village themed event marks its origins among the many German immigrants that settled and influenced the area. They brought the tradition of celebrating the “Advent” or arrival of “das Christkind” (Christ Child) on His “official” birthday, December 25. 

Even Pets were not left out of the festivities. Bonnie Bitondo, owner of Maxwell & Molly’s Closet Pet Boutique offered for sale a “Doggy Advent Calendar.” Bitondo described it as the perfect way for dogs to celebrate, and the calendar is stuffed with tasty treats to count down the days, in paws, of course. 

Bitondo commented, “Pets are elevated to family members,” and certainly her tables reflected that, with doggie bandanas, “Bone Appetite” gift sets, and even gifts for feline friends. 

Bitondo was pleased with her experiences at the Christmas Market. She said the foot traffic throughout the weekend was plentiful, and steady, and she met visitors from as far away as Bergen County.

“It’s a great way to kick off the holiday season,” she said. “When you think of what people have been through since the beginning of the month, it’s nice to start to celebrate.”

Of the organizers, and the event itself, Bitondo, who has had a booth there in previous years, added, “They’ve worked really hard to create new things; they keep improving their formula each year. There are so many volunteers. They have a great skeletal crew at all levels. It’s a very lovely venue. You feel very supported. It’s well worth it.”

A nice addition this year was a children’s wooden-horse carousel. Located in the White Deer Plaza near the St. Moritz Grill & Bar.

Karin Meyer, an original founding member of the German Christmas Market was born in Germany and came to Sparta in 1969. Inspired to bring a taste of German culture with her, in 2001 she and several volunteers started the first Christmas Market.

Meyer proudly stated that they wanted to, “Get the community together just like in Germany and do a little shopping for Christmas”.

They are now in their 11th year and the Market has become a Sussex Country local tradition. 

For the past 11 years, the Christmas Market has given $110,000 to local charities such as the United Way of Sussex County, Domestic Abuse Services Inc (DASI) of Newton, and the German Language Departments of the Sparta School Districts (scholarship).

Over the years, local merchants have also warmed to the concept, and have continued to support the festivities as a way to reach local customers.

Vendor Leigh and Mark Pecoriello, a husband and wife team who recently closed their brick and mortar storefront, Mother Moon Baby Boutique, were thrilled to see a lot of customers. They said they appreciate venues like the Lake Mohawk German Christmas Market, and hope to inform their customers that they still are doing business in an online format through their website. 

Their clever slogan, “Stylish baby gifts for the Ultra Chic Mom” will keep customers coming back for more. They specialize in children’s murals, hand-painted furniture, and locally handmade items.

Sara Megletti of PB&J Stores offers fine clothing, handbags, and accessories. One of the more interesting products they had for sale were touch screen gloves, for use with touch screen devices. Megletti said that she initially started selling at shows, like the Lake Mohawk German Christmas Market, and has now opened up her own storefront in Newton. Remembering the name PB&J is easy, and Megletti, and her husband, Jim, coined the name after their favorite comfort food, which they felt reflected the ease of shopping at their store.

Garden of Life Yoga & Massage Center was also there, with a variety of gift items from their retail store. The store’s corner of the market was packed with customers by their table making purchases.  

Sparta photographer Daniel Baumgartner of 35mmphotos showcased his creative photography. Deborah Dewey, a company representative, stated that they were proud to announce that one of Baumgartner’s photos was chosen as the cover for the local Lake Mohawk Papoose Magazine. In addition, the publication of their 2013 Lake Mohawk Calendar is available for sale on their website. 

The first time at this venue, the Candy Apple Shoppe sales people were ecstatic, as crowds flocked to their array of hand-created candy apples.

“We did wonderful! We will be back next year”, Lauren Brophy, one of the owners, emphasized.

Participating vendors and groups were: Mohawk Gardens, Freehand wood Carvings, Kiwanis- Bell Ringing, Coupons for the Community, Cabin Creations by Marina, Boy Scouts Troop #82, Northeast Kettle Korn, Oaks Barrels, Sunrise Mountain Soap, Between Friends Antiques, Crazy Crocheted Fashions/More, Werner’s Carvings, South Side Silk Road Teas, Second Hand Mittens, Santa Hut, Alpine Confection, Lake Mohawk CC, Stroopies, CCG Collections, Candy Apple Shoppe, Sunflower Trading Co., Alstede Farms, The Market Place, Committee Hut, Augustin’s Waffles, DJ Hut, Lake Mohawk Country Club Brau Tent, Cupola & Weather Vanes, Fudgie Wudgie Fudge, Farm at Rainbow’s End, K of C Squires, German Language School of Morris County, High Point Harmonizers, Pope John Jazz Ensemble, Hilltop Country Day School, Children’s Choir of Sussex County, Biryukov Academy, Sparta High School (SHS) Choirs, Vernon High School Quartets, Harmony in Motion, Morning Door, Zephyr Vocal Ensemble, SMS German Students, Maria Jesus Valdes, German Language School, Jacqueline Kroschell, SHS German Students, SHS Saxophone Ensemble, SHS Brass Quintet, Pope John Chorus, Bill Wright & The Broken Hand Man Band, SCARC Choir, Lenape Valley German Club, Everything Home Made, Barbara’s Butter Crunch, Bacon Bites, JD Gourmet, Knights of Columbus, New American Bakery, Apple Ridge Farm, Gifts Galore, Lafayette Clayworks, Kim O’Hara Clay Designs, E. Christopher & Sons, Gratkowski Original Art, Nancy’s Handbags, Liza J. Smith-Simpson Art, Lorraine Blackmore, Chocolaterie, PatriPet, Garden of Life Massage & Yoga Center, Jersey Handbags & Accessories, Puppy Dog Tails, Astrid’s Artscapes, Gifts Galore, Rimi Studios, Toni Chaplin (artist), JoLi Crafts, Back to Wood, Mohawk Photos, The Jeweled PussyCat, Frogmore, Mother Moon Baby Boutique, Curly Girlie Designs, Katy Keen Beach Booty, Classic Goggles, Inc., Committee Hut, Carey Lane Accents, and Maxwell & Molly’s Pet Boutique.

Corporate Sponsors for the event were Bayer HealthCare (Consumer Care), and Eastern Propane. Platinum Sponsor was Grego Landscaping. Gold Sponsors were Roseann Aliano, Advantage Signs, Bernard Hefele Attorney at Law, Karin Meyer (Realtor), Lake Mohawk Beach 4, Randolph Auto Repair, Sussex Bank, Weichert Realtors, and Environmental & Biological Scientists at Rutgers University Horticultural/Teaching Greenhouse. And Silver Sponsors were: Dr. Stephen Candio, DDS, Dr. Frank Kane, Family Schludner, First Hope Bank, Golden Castle Jewelers, Il Porto, Lenard Vance (Plaza Barber Shop), Prism Placement Services, Sparta Discount Tire, Ultima Hair Design, and Dean Reinauer and Tom Murray.

Click here for the Annual Lake Mohawk Christmas Market's website.

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