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The Bellefonte Winter Market: Q&A with Downtown Bellefonte Inc's Melissa Hombosky

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Waterfront Bellefonte, Pennsylvania 16823

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By Serge Bielanko

Sometimes (because I am not exactly right in the head, I guess) I like to imagine that I am a peasant farmer living in Medieval Europe. Yep. Go ahead and laugh. Whatever. Because its real to me. And I like to dream that- HO-HUM-HIDDILY-DEE- I'm headed to the village outdoor market to trade my only sheep for some flour that my wife, Hildamar The Sad, will use to make wee loaves of bread that I will tear apart and dip into a thick gray bean soup after another long day in my potato fields.

But then again, well, they're not really MY potato fields now, are they?!

Serf much?!

Haha.

You get it?

Serf much?!

Hahaha!

Medieval humor rocks!

But even so, the thing is: it's hard to pretend some of this stuff sometimes because there just aren't enough year-round outdoor farmer's markets or whatever to feed the demand in my head. So I have to keep an eye out for any and all possibilities. Which is why I'm really really excited that that local creative think tank known as Downtown Bellefonte Inc (DBI). is once again hosting their magical Bellefonte Under the Lights: Winter Market down on the heath (walkway) along the babbling brook (Spring Creek) at the base of the Grand Castle (the Gamble Mill) !!!

Now, of course my reasons for being excited about this might be enough to put me in the stockade if my Lord finds out about my meandering mind, but never you mind any of that. You have genuine excuse to be excited yourself here and it has little to do with selling your last sheep for bread money, people. This market is the absolute best place for lots of other things than that.

If you haven't seen any of the waterfront transitions go down yet, friend, you are in for a Yuletide treat.

They string these warm and charming lights up all along the waterfront, and they set up all of these German-style Christmas Market (Christkindlmarkt!!!) stalls, and they fill them with a slew of local artists and craftspeople and delicious foods prepped by area specialists and the whole thing is so dang Dickensian that even a Medieval potato farmer like myself can feel almost right at home.

This year’s event will be held around the Lamb Street Bridge near the Gamble Mill on Saturday, December 14, 2019 from 4 to 9 pm. It will coincide once again with the Victorian Christmas Celebration that brings folks from all over the place to town every single year. And it will be bigger and better than last year's event, with at least 45 vendors now signed-up and ready to help transport you through that time and place portal to that only the very best Christmas markets can do.

I'm dead serious. You will probably be talking in German tongues by the time you have had your second mug of mulled cider, trust me. And if the wintery happens to start dropping gentle snowflakes down upon the people of the market, you might as well forget it. We'll ALL be living in the shadow of that glorious Grand Castle.

But you really shouldn't take my word for it, huh? I know, I know. I'm the guy that'll be walking around the market with an invisible lamb! No one can take THAT guy's word! So let's check in with someone whose word is absolute solid gold when it comes to all of this. I'm talking about one of the main brains behind the Bellefonte Under the Lights: Winter Market. Melissa Hombosky. Melissa is both a DBI board member and the Chair of the Events Committee, so she knows everything there is to know about this year's market.

I asked her to give us the entire scoop.

Here you go....

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Bellefonte.com: Melissa, last year's Winter Market was a big hit. What do you think made it something so many people wanted to be a part of?

Melissa Hombosky: After the success of the first Waterfront Dinner, we asked ticket holders what they wanted to see and and a Winter Market was it. Last year, our sponsor, SPE Federal Credit Union, gave us the support to dream big and we did pretty well. They've joined us again this year and really gave us the freedom to swing big. I think there is just something about the spirit of community and the magic of that Waterfront space. The temps were pretty cold last year, but that didn't stop people from coming out in droves. There was a moment last year when the crowd just started building and it started to snow - it was a feeling of pure magic. We are chasing that feeling again this year.

BFT.com: How may vendors this year compared to last year? Is the market growing?

MH: The market has definitely grown! We will have over 50 vendors set up on the Lamb Street bridge and Waterfront lawn. Besides the seriously talented makers, we have some of the best local food trucks including Bellefonte faves Brazilian Munchies, Rosie's Pierogies and Scott's Roasting. I'm personally excited for our craft beverage area! It is teeming with local and regional brewers, distillers and wineries. Who doesn't love a drink on the Waterfront? There is more fun stuff like a Confer's Jewelry sponsored photobooth, warming tents and a gift wrapping station. I highly recommend stopping by the Wishing Tree and drop your wishes for 2020 - it was a major hit last year.

BFT.com: I like how you guys are outlawing MLMs (Multi-level marketing ) and pushing the focus to be on inviting only 'skilled makers and artist to fill our waterfront'. Why is that so important to the essence of what DBI is trying to do here?

MH: Personally, I would never knock anyone's hustle - if an MLM makes sense to you then go for it! But DBI's mission is to help businesses arrive and thrive in Bellefonte and we can best serve our community by supporting skilled makers. We believe in shopping local because the majority of our downtown merchants are independently owned. Many of the makers this year are local, including merchants like Bonfattos, Big Spring Spirits and Co2 who are setting up in the Winter Market despite having a busy day in their own shops. Many other merchants sponsored decorated trees which will be lit throughout the holiday season. Our downtown is filled with some really, really great people.

BFT.com: I saw that Local Historia will be offering Historical Walking Tours for free that evening. What a fantastic idea. How did that all come about?

MH: The folks at Local Historia, Matt and Christine, love Bellefonte as much, if not more, than we do. They approached DBI about the walking tour and we immediately jumped at the opportunity to work with them. They are such good people and fantastic guides and give so much back to the community! I highly, highly recommend checking out their FREE 25 minute historical walking tours to discuss life during Victorian Bellefonte and include a visit inside the Gamble Mill. Who doesn't want to check out the Mill?

BFT.com: You know, Bellefonte at the holidays is just kind of super unique. How come?

MH: I may be the wrong person to ask because I just love this town so much. The architecture in our downtown can transport you to another time and place, especially when the first snow hits. As for the weekend of our event, Historic Bellefonte Inc (HBI) has done an incredible job over the past three decades producing Victorian Christmas. They created this magical event for other nonprofits to thrive in and DBI is just one more attraction in the larger event.

BFT.com: Want to tell me a few of the vendor highlights for this year?

MH: As a small business owner, I appreciate every single person who decided to join us at this event. An outdoor maker market is December is a big ask! But it's also BIG time fun. We want everyone to have that cheesy Hallmark movie moment where your heart is full and you're having the best time.

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2019 Bellefonte Under the Lights: Winter Market
Hosted by Downtown Bellefonte Inc. and The Happy Valley Adventure Bureau
Saturday, December 14, 2019 at 4 PM – 9 PM
Lamb Street Bridge near the Gamble Mill, Bellefonte.

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