After months of planning, the Barrington Breakfast Rotary and Barrington Village Association say they’re canceling this year’s ChristKindlFest because agreement about the festival dates could not be reached with the Village of Barrington. They called off the four-day winter market, food and music fest after village officials did not approve hosting ChrstKindlFest the same weekend as the village’s traditional tree lighting and holiday shopping events which accompany Santa’s arrival on the first Friday of December.
The Village of Barrington’s Economic Development Director, Peg Blanchard says they requested organizers change the dates for this year’s ChristKindlFest so it wouldn’t compete with the village’s longstanding “Bright Barrington Traditions” celebration which includes a day of holiday shopping events downtown, at the Ice House Mall, the Foundry, the Shops on Lageschulte and the Shops at Flint Creek.
“The village is open to working with the ChristKindlFest committee and never turned them down,” Peg says. “There was no formal vote. We just asked them to consider alternate weekends so it’s a win-win for everybody and they did not come forward with alternate dates.”
ChristKindlFest committee co-chair Doug Skor of the Barrington Village Association says, with so many wheels already in motion, a date change is simply not a workable solution this late in the game.
“We’re five months deep into the planning process and moving the date changes everything in terms of commitments we’ve already made with vendors, talent and sponsors. Half of our vendor booths are already sold out. So changing the date at this stage is a complete shift. We don’t have the volunteer bandwidth to start over.”
Doug Skor and Barrington Breakfast Rotary’s David Loop say the committee did, however, consider other dates. The decided against the weekend prior because it’s Thanksgiving weekend and they won’t be able to line up needed volunteers. They were also concerned that weekends later in December would create a conflict for the festival’s student performers during a time when they need to be studying for final exams before winter break. Ultimately, the Rotary voted not to proceed with the planning.
David Loop says last year’s ChristKindlFest drew an estimated 21,000 people over the four-day event. The committee expected to see that number grow to over 30,000 visitors to ChristKindlFest in 2015, with tens of thousands more projected to attend annually in years to come.
“The Barrington Village Association and the Barrington Breakfast Rotary were committed to doing this event,” David says. “We were gaining momentum and we could have knocked it absolutely out of the ball park this third year of ChristKindlFest in terms of the festival’s programmatic and financial success.”
David says the ChristKindlFest committee has received significant support from sponsors and donors since the first fest in 2013, even securing $45,000 in grants from the Barrington Area Community Foundation (BACF). Those BACF funds were instrumental in bringing the holiday festival to life, with a portion paying for the twenty wooden vendor huts Pepper Construction built specifically for Barrington’s ChristKindlFest.
But Peg Blanchard says the village is reacting to feedback from merchants who reported that traffic and sales were down in their stores during last year’s ChristKindlFest. She also says village officials encouraged ChristKindlFest planners to move the fest to another weekend so both events could help extend Barrington’s holiday festivities, giving people more reasons to come into town over two weekends instead of one.
“‘Bright Barrington Traditions’ has always been geared toward drawing families and promoting local businesses during the holidays,” Peg says. “We had a trolley that took families with Santa Claus to the various shopping destinations around town. When you put another special event downtown that people are coming to at the same time, it impacts participation in the village celebration and doesn’t help businesses that are outside the village center because everything is concentrated on only two streets.”
Doug Skor says pulling the plug on ChristKindlFest has been a tough pill to swallow, particularly because of the tremendous amount of effort made by so many.
“We had an amazing committee that was so committed to the success of ChristKindlFest and bringing something really special to Barrington. I’m very proud to have worked with each and every one of them .”
Hosted by both the Barrington Breakfast Rotary and Barrington Village Association, Barrington ChristKindlFest featured live music, food & drink, kids carnival rides, visits with Santa and reindeer, festive holiday booths selling holiday treats and handcrafted gift items from around the world. Both organizations committed to making ChristKindlFest successful with the hopes that the tradition would ultimately be instrumental in generating funds to give back to the community. For more information about the event’s purpose and past sponsors, visit ChristKindlFest.com.