History of Holiday Market
by Saturday Market Archivist Diane McWhorter

Saturday Market sold until Christmas every year including in 1970, when there were almost 200 members selling on the sidewalks around 10th and the Overpark. In 1971 on the Courthouse Plaza and in 1972-81 on the Butterfly Lot, there were always markets and many times weather was a stressful factor. Gradually people learned to adapt to it, eventually using propane heaters and improved tarps and structures. One old-timer told me they would stand in boxes of newspapers. I started selling in 1976 and well remember the challenges.

The Market filled the Butterfly through 1980 but then costs began to rise and with Fifth Street and other indoor sales an option, plans were made for lots of promotion and expensive improvements in 1981 such as rented tents for customers, advertising, and paid entertainment. Every Saturday was rainy and cold and the added stretch from December 19th-23rd did not make the budget whole. The recession was hitting hard as well.

1982 found the membership small, discouraged, and dwindling, and in May an arson fire burned up all of the equipment. Fundraising, lots of volunteers, and a good summer still didn't get the Market into a good financial position. Something new was needed. The staff asked the City, who owned the Park Blocks then after transferring it from the County, if we could return to Lotte Streisinger's original vision of selling in the lovely, tree-filled park. Permission was granted and in late November of 1982 the first markets were held in the southern blocks. The move generated additional support from the city, business associations and the community and through 1983 the Market got back on its feet. I believe that was the year it snowed heavily on Thanksgiving and the planned sale on Friday was cancelled.

An ambitious Christmas market was planned for 1984 with lighted, covered walkways for a wet 8-day week in mid-December. Called Holiday in the Park, it was slow during the week and cold and members were certain a move indoors was warranted. The Dickens Fair organized by Bill Wooten was already being held at the Fairgrounds and I believe he ended that in 1985. Still outdoors, in 1985 three Saturday/Sunday weekends were tried with moderate success, and I think that was the first year it was called "Holiday Market."

In October 1986 the "New Holiday Market" was announced for December 3rd-7th in the Auditorium building of the Fairgrounds. The hours were 11am-9pm. It was a huge success but the rest of the Saturdays were still on the Park Blocks, and in fact some elected not to sell at the New Holiday Market and sold outdoors that weekend. That same model of one weekend was used until 1989, when it was expanded to both the Wheeler Pavilion Building and the Auditorium and the courtyard in between, beginning on the Friday of Thanksgiving weekend. The "New" was dropped after the first year.

We moved into the Lane Events Center in 1993, and eventually added the weekend before Thanksgiving. Since then, we have set up a beautiful indoor Holiday Market with an International Food Court, a full day of live music on our stage and more than 285 booths filled with unique handmade gifts sold by their makers that is open for 6-7 full weekends plus Christmas Eve.