The last evening of Nov. has always been unremarkable compared to the exciting holiday season that precedes it. Yet, this year the 30th of Nov. had a surprise in store for me. Little did I know that the festivity that would be accompanying my friends and me on our evening out would be one overflowing with fantastical holiday cheer. The friction of bodies huddled together beneath the string of decorative lights kept us warm in the chilled air as we nudged our way through crowds of people looking to spend big this year at the Kerrytown KindleFest. 

Had the market been indoors, I wouldn’t have felt as great a sense of community as I did when I smiled in comradery to rosy cheeks and chilly noses buried beneath layers of scarves and hats. Ann Arborites and students alike joined together in sifting through German food (pretzels, bratwursts, roasted nuts), strolling musicians and even Santa Claus himself at the annual outdoor Holiday Market. The joy on the faces of children as they roasted marshmallows over a pit of roaring fire seemed to radiate to the rest of the hoards of people in attendance. Everyone walked cheerfully along to the quick tune of the violin coming from the musician in the center. 

“We should hang out outside of the University more often!” my friend whispered to me as she was passed a free sample of Glühwein (a mulled wine) from a cheerful bearded gentleman. 

I couldn’t help but agree with her. So often, I feel as though the town of Ann Arbor and the University do not coincide with one another. Yet, the Kerrytown KindleFest seamlessly allowed townees and students to happily enjoy the company of one another through an appreciation of this niche little city in eastern Michigan. 

It was quite smart of the organizers of the event to provide activities all members of the family could enjoy beneath the awning bending over the market. While adults shopped, kids met Santa Claus. Those over 21 could sip German beer, and those under 21 could do arts and crafts. I looked to my right and saw a woman brush her graying hair behind her ear as she swayed to the festive music while the child holding her hand attempted to move her little legs as quick as her grandmother’s. I looked to my right and watched a group of 20-somethings laughing jovially with a group of teenagers about a funny art piece one of the artisans had created. This event was the perfect curator for togetherness between not only Ann Arborites and students, but families of all ages. 

One aspect of the event that was not so age- (or economically-) friendly were the prices. All the vendors at the festival had created such interesting pieces of art. I so desperately wanted to purchase a present for my mother, who loves German-inspired festivals such as this one. However, when I’d look at the price tag of the art I wanted, the number following the dollar sign would be far too high to not make a twinge of guilt churn inside of me. I couldn’t imagine families attending the event that had debts greater than mine. While there were many free activities, it still seemed that the majority of the crowd this market drew in were people in the upper middle class (and mostly white). I’d like to see the market step outside of the box next year, and incorporate more economically friendly vendors and activities. Then, more students would be inclined to go, as well as Ann Arborites whose incomes don’t nearly match that of the people I saw on Friday night. 

With that thought aside, I left the market with a spirit chipper enough to help me persevere through Dec. — a month that is filled to the brim with exams, pressing due dates and increasingly colder weather. While I’d like to see more free activities and more economically diverse crowds, the event did a terrific job at igniting the sense of togetherness that seems to fit so nicely with the holiday season. All the vendors were friendly enough to tell me interesting stories about their art, their businesses and their lives. With a funny story stuck in one ear and holiday music ringing happily in the other, I left the event with much more than I had coming in. I’d recommend it to everyone who’s in need of an evening away from the stresses of the day, which seems to be us all. 

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