Centre County locals braved the frigid weather Saturday evening to take part in what might just become a Bellefonte holiday tradition. Downtown Bellefonte Inc. hosted its first Bellefonte Under the Lights: Winter Market in conjunction with Bellefonte Victorian Christmas to rave reviews and happy crowds.
“I think the experience of hanging out ‘under the lights’ and enjoying a craft beverage by one of our fire pits will be a huge draw, but also the opportunity to find unique gifts,” Ellen Matis, one of the event organizers and member of Downtown Bellefonte Inc., said earlier in the week.
The experience of being “under the lights” seemed to be a big hit all on its own, with families and friends stopping to gather under the twinkling bulbs strung over the Bellefonte waterfront walk for plenty of photos. The winter market with all of its craft, food and beverage vendors stretched along the grass near the waterfront walk, as well as across Lamb Street bridge.
Matis said the idea for the event came about following Downtown Bellefonte Inc.’s previous fundraiser in September, the inaugural Bellefonte Under the Lights community dinner celebrating all things Bellefonte and serving menu items from Bellefonte businesses and local members of the Central PA Tasting Trail.
“When we surveyed the attendees of the Under the Lights dinner, an overwhelming number of people asked that the lights be used again for another event, specifically at Christmastime,” Matis said. The eventual winter market that came about was inspired by similar winter markets in the region, like the Mifflinburg Christkindl Market.
To attract more attendees to the new event, the decided date fell in line with the annual Bellefonte Victorian Christmas celebration, so that locals and visitors could potentially enjoy the Arts and Crafts Show, the horse-drawn carriage rides and all the rest before coming to visit the winter market, which began later in the day.
It seems that’s exactly what many of the attendees did, taking advantage of all the Christmas fun provided within easy walking distance.
“We (visited) the Arts and Crafts Show and walked around town,” said one couple waiting in line to make a purchase with a local beverage vendor. “We have lived in Boalsburg since the end of June, so we’re new to the whole area. We moved there from Pittsburgh and everyone told us, ‘Oh, you have to go to the Victorian Christmas festival in Bellefonte,’ so we marked off our calendar and made it a point to come out here today.”
Attendees weren’t the only ones happy with the event’s festive atmosphere and good showing, though. The 20 or so vendors, ranging from food trucks to craft booths, were finding the high spirits good for business, and not just sales.
Elwin Stewart, co-owner of Happy Valley Vineyard and Winery and Bella Vino Wine Bar, said he signed his business up to appear at the first winter market because he saw it as an educational opportunity for local people to see local products.
“We have local food, local spirits, locally made wine. That’s a big part of it — the educational component and opportunity to sell our wine and (promote that) we also have a wine bar here in Bellefonte,” he said.
Events around Bellefonte continue Sunday
8:30 a.m.-noon: Knights of Columbus pancake breakfast to benefit Toys for Tots
11 a.m.-4 p.m.: Horse-drawn carriage rides
noon-4 p.m.: Festival of Trees, Central Pennsylvania Institute of Science and Technology
noon-4 p.m.: Santa’s House
2 p.m.: Children’s tea at The Little House
3 p.m.: Victorian High Teas, The Queen Bed and Breakfast
3-4:30 p.m.: God’s Amazing Grace Holiday Concert, Faith United Methodist Church
Visit www.bellefontevictorianchristmas.com for more information on these events.