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Oconomowoc German Christmas Market kicks off Friday

Nov. 19, 2012

"It's The German Christmas Market and it's for you!"

That's the word on the street among familiar faces in Oconomowoc during a video at Excitement in the city is ramping up for the inaugural German Christmas Market downtown this week.

Christmas market elves, let's say, have been busy for the past few weeks, hammering and sawing a miniature village that will create an all-inclusive experience. If you've driven through downtown, you might have noticed a conspicuous picket fence on Village Green. The surprise is what's inside, an experience the market board has been envisioning for the past two years. Organizer Craig Pruscha said the fence was necessary to create the environment of the market once inside.

"It will create a cozy environment, interconnectivity and curiosity from those who drive by wondering what's in there," Pruscha said.

So what will be inside?

Twenty-five vendors will be set up in homemade European chalets, a stage will host entertainment throughout the event, Father Christmas will be on hand to take Christmas lists with a portion of the $5 sitting fee going to hurricane Sandy relief, food and more. Adjacent to the market will be a warming hut with hot drinks and an indoor area where children can decorate gingerbread cookies.

"We have Weissgerber restaurants providing German cuisine and The Old German Hall of Milwaukee serving beer, toddies and Glühwein a hot-mulled wine popular in Europe. We have roasted nut vendors, German-style pretzels as well as chocolate and fudge artisans, so come with an appetite," said Pruscha.

The market will be aglow under a canopy of lights, creating a holiday ambience just in time for the onset of the Christmas season. The market is something that Oconomowoc stakeholders have envisioned for several years, drawing inspiration from what some experienced during a trip to Germany several years ago.

The City of Oconomowoc has a sister city in Dietzenbach, Germany.

"The purpose of the Dietzenbach-Oconomowoc Sister City Partnership was to deepen our friendship, establish closer ties between our people, further our mutual interests in education, culture, tourism, economic development and government. It is in that spirit that we have created this event, taking a sampling of the flavor that is Dietzenbach, Germany, and adding it to our quiet lake community 4,300 miles away," reads information on the market site. If you visit it, you can see an Oconomowoc emblem proudly sits next to a German one in the sister city.

When asked how the Oconomowoc market will be modeled after the one residents saw in Germany, Pruscha said it's been a delicate balance when trying to Americanize a historic European tradition. He said Christmas Market Board Secretary Cathleen Slattery has lived in Germany and offered a good perspective, "but in the end we had to make decisions that were true to us," said Pruscha.

Pruscha's hope is that the German Christmas Market will become an Oconomowoc tradition. The longtime Oconomowoc resident has plans to move next year and pursue other interests, but hopes that this venture and another he's been a big part of - Moonlit Movies - will be successful.

"This is the last thing. If I leave behind Moonlit Movies and the German Christmas Market and they stay in place, I'll feel like I paid it forward, because I was a punk when I was a kid," Pruscha said with a laugh.

For his last hurrah, Pruscha is even combining the two events he's been a part of; a 50-foot movie screen will be set up near the market and show a reel of holiday movies beginning around dusk on Friday.

Pruscha didn't hesitate to mention that the all-volunteer event could not have been possible without the help of many over the past year. He said that for the past several days he's had help from Oconomowoc High School students and even former Alderman Scott Antonneau. Pruscha also requested a shout out to sponsors who helped make the market possible.

"Our board consists of a top-notch team of community leaders who put service before self. Each member of our Board understands that building community begins with the willingness to step out front and lead through serving," Pruscha said.

And the board will have an authentic panel of judges to measure the inaugural market's success. A group of Sister City delegates will be in town for the market, including Dietzenbach's mayor, or burgermeister. The group will spend a few days touring the city and learning more about Oconomowoc's way of life as part of the partnership. Mayor Jim Daley said it all goes hand-in-hand with the city's work to revitalize its downtown community.

"Our city is excited about the revitalization efforts downtown, and this event is a wonderful catalyst to highlight Oconomowoc's warmth of community and underscore its assets," said Daley. "The German Market of Oconomowoc plays a strong role for us in building the vision of what we can do going forward."

So Prost! Oconomowoc to the first German Christmas Market.

If you go

What: German Christmas Market, a mix of vendors, food, entertainment and family-friendly activities

When: 4 to 10 p.m. Friday, Nov. 23, noon to 10 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 24 and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 25

Where: Village Green, at Wisconsin Avenue and Main Street, Oconomowoc


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