Holiday wishes from Germany

Megan Rozsa

Lock 3 park is decorated for Akron’s Holiday Festival and Christkindl Market. Photo by Laura Torchia | Daily Kent Stater

Credit: Ron Soltys

Have you ever considered ringing in the holidays with bratwurst and sauerkraut?

In the town of Chemnitz, Germany, this is an annual Christmastime occurrence.

Chemnitz may be miles away, but, it’s also a few minutes west of Kent.

The Chriskindl Market, located at Lock 3 in Akron, is the largest Christmas festival between Chicago and New York. It offers visitors a glimpse into a typical German Christmas, something that not all cities in the United States get to tout.

Dave Lieberth, Deputy Mayor of Administration for the City of Akron, started the market in 2004 when he and Mayor Donald Plusquellic took a trip to Chemnitz. They were fascinated by the idea of a Christmas festival and decided to bring it to Akron. Chemnitz became Akron’s sister-city in 1997.

“We’re very democratic about our holidays,” Lieberth said. “We celebrate them all — Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Christmas, etc.”

In Europe, Christmas markets are extremely popular, he said.

“It’s a reason for people to get out of their houses and be out about the town,” he said. “I wanted to provide winter sports activities and attract a critical mass of people.”

A live band plays German and American Christmas carols to passersby. The warm air from their instruments floods the air around them, their red noses shining like beacons under the Christmas lights.

At each cottage, visitors are offered a taste or glimpse of Germany, from chocolate and breads to table decorations and ornaments for a traditional German Christmas tree.

“We’re offering things that are completely unique,” Lieberth said. “The people who bring these items here are the people who make them there.”

There are 12 huts available to peruse at your leisure, each selling authentic German wares. The workers are friendly and willing to help you find just what you’re looking for.

If you happen to be hungry while you’re in the area, check out the Hutzenstub. In this cafeteria-like offshoot of the park, you can order delicious German soups, sauerkraut, frankfurters, bratwurst, dessert and German beer. You can then relax under the warm canopy and eat.

New to the event this year is the carousel. For $1, patrons can take a ride on their favorite pony and watch the Christmas lights whiz past.

Lieberth said the festival attracted 75,000 last year. He said he hopes to gain more attention this year.

“We have the most authentic Christmas market in the United States because we actually bring the people here,” he said. “We accompany it with a full German kitchen, and we also have the largest advent calendar in United States. We countdown to First Night in Akron.”

Contact all correspondent Megan Rozsa at [email protected].