SPARTA, NJ – Word has spread quickly. The German Christmas Market will not be held on the Lake Mohawk Country Club boardwalk and grounds in 2020 according to announcements by LMCC officials. Questions linger about whether or not the successful holiday event will reach it’s 20 anniversary.
On Monday, January 20 a letter was sent to members of the LMCC from the Board of Trustees, announcing the split. The letter, signed by LMCC Board of Trustees President Christina Repka-Davis, cited crowd control and the commensurate public safety of more than 10,000 people who attend each day as the main concerns.
"This event is truly magical and is a testament to the dedication fo the GMC board and volunteers," LMCC General Manager John Stanley said in a letter to LMCC members. "Unfortunately, due to its success and growth, the Market has transcended Lake Mohawk Country Club's capabilities as an event location."
The German Christmas Market has, for 19 years, donated proceeds of the holiday event to multiple charities. According to their website, they have donated more than $350,000 to local charities.
“It was a surprise,” Judy Beelaert, President of the German Christmas Market said in an interview on Wednesday. “Three days later," they were still trying to grapple with the decision. "We are open," Beelaert said. "Nothing is off the table in terms of what direction we go."
She said the GCM committee had met twice with the LMCC board of trustees to discuss the 2020 contract.
In the first meeting Beelaert said the LMCC trustees laid out their concerns. The club said wanted “to be more involved with crowd management, offsetting costs and offering more membership exclusivity,” Beelaert said.
At the second meeting, “the club made it clear there would be no further discussion,” Beelaert said.
Spokesperson for the LMCC said they had nothing further to add to the statements they had sent to members.
The LMCC had already pulled back on allowing the GCM to use the Members Room in the clubhouse, Beelaert said.
The “lessons learned” debriefing meeting for the GCM had already happened when the announcement was made. Beelaert said every year the look to make improvements and that this past year was “one of the better events.”
She pointed to the seating and tents on the field next to the club house as “a benefit to crowd control,” dispersing some of the attendees off the boardwalk to sit and eat.
Prior to the event, news of a plan to charge an admission fee was leaked before they were ready to present it to the community, Beelaert said. “We try to think through every angle before doing anything new.”
She said the admission charge was seeking to address two of the LMCC concerns; crowd control and offset costs. Before they had time to create the message to the community, there was a “huge negative rebound,” so they "knew the community would not support the plan,” Beelaert said.
She said they were hoping to partner with the LMCC in implementing the admission fee and they had always partnered well in the past.
Repka-Davis’ letter said, “Although attempts were made to come to an agreement of how to handle the crowds and safety concerns, a solution was not presented to LMCC that would sufficiently address crowd control, parking or member access that would be attainable within the capabilities of Lake Mohawk facilities, staff and membership volunteers.”
Other initiatives have worked well, including the shuttle buses. “They were one of the better features this year,” Beelaert said. She said they never had people waiting anywhere. The shuttles ran from Sparta High School and Sparta Middle School.
“The number of buses was correct, the drivers were fantastic, it was a great process,” Beelaert said of the service provided by Byram Bus. She said she has used the shuttle bus to get to the boardwalk.
Both organizations and individuals recognize the benefit of having the iconic kickoff to the Christmas holiday.
“It’s our home with a lot of personal ties,” Beelaert said. “We are open,” to finding a location or solution.
In her letter Repka-Davis said “I am sad to think of a holiday without the GCM to kick off the season…”
Beelaert said they would like to “thank the community for all of their support and responses in the past few days, personally and as a group. It has really helped us."
She also asked that people remember the charities they support, “it’s the reason we do this.”
- Birth Haven
- Connect for Community
- First Book Norwescap
- First Presbyterian Church
- Ginnie's House
- Girls on the Run
- Karen Ann Quinlan
- Lenape Valley High School
- Manna House
- Meals on Wheels
- Northern NJ Veterans Cemetary
- Partnership Social Services
- Pass it Along
- Smaritan Inn
- Sojihuggles Children's Foundation
- Sparta Board of Education
- Sparta Elks
- Sparta Kiwanis
- Sparta Train Station
- Sussex County Arts Council
- Sussex County Technical School
- United Way
They also rely on In-Kind donations of labor and materials to create the experience that has made it one of the largest German Christmas markets in the region.
Beelaert said the volunteer GCM committee will be gettting together soon to discuss options for the future of the market.