The garland-draped huts, the warm glow from inside, the smell of roasting nuts — all of that will be missing from Daley Plaza this year after Christkindlmarket organizers said the popular event will go online.
Blame the coronavirus.
“Ultimately, the safety of our visitors, our staff and our vendors really is our top priority and we really wanted to make sure we were doing it in the best way possible,” said Kate Bleeker, a spokeswoman for the market. “On top of that, about 60 percent of our vendors come from Europe and around the world, and with travel restrictions, they can’t come in.”
The market, which in years past has been open from Nov. 1 through Dec. 31, draws about 1.2 million people annually to Daley Plaza. There are smaller-scale events in Wrigleyville and in Milwaukee. The market started in Chicago in 1996.
“I cannot guarantee that everything you would find at the market will be available on our virtual site, but most of the products will be there,” Bleeker said.
Beginning this week, customers can “pre-order” special gift boxes of “favorite things” from the market, Bleeker said.
“Since these are really limited-edition boxes, people can pre-order between now and Nov. 1 to guarantee that they can get a box because once they are sold out, they are gone,” Bleeker said.
One thing visitors to the online market won’t find this year is a 2020 commemorative mug — the market’s signature item, which is redesigned each year.
“This year, since we’re not able to all gather, we are opening up our back stock and doing a reflection on the memories of the market and the memories of the mug. So we are actually offering our entire stock of mugs from all of the past markets,” Bleeker said.
The virtual market is scheduled to be open from Nov. 1 through Dec. 31. For more information, go to www.christkindlmarket.com.