For years, Matt Riggs and his wife Caroline wondered why there was no German Christmas market in downstate Illinois. Then he decided to do something about it.
Riggs, part of the ownership family of Riggs Beer Company, constructed and opened a German Christmas market at his Urbana store last weekend. According to Riggs, there are two such markets in Chicagoland but none downstate.
“My wife Caroline was born and raised in Germany and I lived over there for several years and we always enjoyed going to small-town Christmas markets,” Riggs said. “It seems like every small town over there has one. It was a blast to get out in the cold weather and drink warm spiced wine, do a little Christmas shopping and just hang out. We kind of wondered why there wasn’t one here.”
It was – as Riggs noted last week before the market opened – “an immense amount of work.” He a design company and contractor to fashion the German-style huts that you’ll find on the business’ grounds. “That’s what makes the event, going from hut to hut. It makes for a beautiful atmosphere and also serves as a wind block. We stack them close together out in the beer garden to limit the amount of wind so hopefully people can stay a little warmer than they would be if it was an open field.”
There are seven huts. Two feature food, including “both sweet and savory crepes” along with bratwurst, potato pancakes pretzels and “very much what you would find at a German Christmas market in Germany,” he said. Another hut offers hot spiced wine and hot chocolate.
The other four huts are filled with various local vendors, selling such products as homemade soap, wood-made Christmas ornaments, honey and preserves, and Christmas wreaths. The vendor lineup will change slightly each week.
The market is open every weekend (Thursday-Sunday) until Christmas. Thursday and Friday hours are 4-8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday hours are 2-7 p.m. Riggs’ taproom will be open and people are welcome to bring their own food.