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Holiday Markets

Buy Local at Iowa's Indoor Markets

by Jocelyn Engman

The Iowa indoor market scene has really taken off in the past five years, and this year the holiday markets are bigger and better than ever. If you’ve never shopped at a local indoor market, go! They’re brimming with all sorts of items perfect for gifts, seasonal decorating, and holiday entertaining, plus your purchases benefit local economies, too.

One-of-a-kind Gifts

Local markets are a great place to find unique gifts for those special friends and family members who already have everything. Look to the local markets to find the gifts you’ve never seen before or to find the gifts you can’t get anywhere else. Vendors are always extremely helpful, and some will even make personalized gifts designed just for you. 

Presents on a budget. The great thing about buying unique gifts is no one knows what you paid for them! Indoor holiday markets are a great place to find high-quality and well-made items that look rich but are priced reasonably.

It’s all green. The goods you’ll find at the local markets are made or produced right down the road, not assembled on the other side of the ocean or trucked across the country. By shopping your local markets, you’re conserving resources, reducing the carbon footprint, and supporting your local economy.

A congenial atmosphere. When you shop a local event, there’s a good chance that in the faces that make up the crowd there’ll be someone you know. There’s even a good chance you’ll recognize friends among the local vendors. You’ll soon find yourself both shopping and socializing.

Those of us who are lucky enough to live in southeastern Iowa have a large variety of indoor events to visit—there’s something going on every weekend this December. The following is a list of popular holiday markets, organized according to date and location, plus a few details on what makes each event special and what you’ll find when you go. Also keep an eye out for ads and fliers—you’ll find that there are many more holiday market events out there to tempt you.

Fairfield Markets

Holiday Trade Fair. Dec. 11, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., MUM Fieldhouse.

What you’ll love: The international cuisine and the blend of university and local vendors. Of all the holiday Fairfield events, this is the most original! Discover handmade jewelry and sweaters, textiles and quilts, plus holiday decorations, herbal oils and vinegars, Christmas greenery, and lots more.

Fairfield Indoor Market & Holiday Extravaganza. Dec. 18, 8 a.m.-2 p.m., Fairfield Arts & Convention Center.

What you’ll love: The variety, the fun, and the five-minute drive. This is the last and biggest indoor event in Fairfield—everyone comes together for one last holiday party! Find good food and good fun with friends, a festive atmosphere, and charming holiday music. Among the items on sale will be local produce, honey, eggs, and meat, plus hand-knit wool and alpaca sweaters and scarves, artwork, wooden bowls, birdhouses, soaps, Christmas flowers, and holiday decorations.

Iowa City Markets

Indoor Farmer’s Market. Dec.11, 8 a.m.-1 p.m. Recreation Center Gymnasium, 220 S. Gilbert St.

What you’ll love: A great local shopping spot in Iowa City for gifts you just can’t find in a chain store. This is a good-sized market with lots of local vendors. Expect to find local produce and meat (including holiday hams), plus honey, herb-infused oils, jams, salsa, wine, cheese, soy nuts, homemade noodles, fresh Christmas trees, handmade holiday ornaments, and home decorations.

Eastside Artists Holiday Sale. Dec. 10, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Dec. 11-12, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Masonic Building, 312 E. College St.

What you’ll love: Eastside Artists is a group of 23 artists working in a variety of media. The sale offers beautiful gifts, including keepsake boxes, marionettes, puppets, dolls, jewelry, ornaments, fiber arts, ceramics, paintings, prints, and handmade books.

Des Moines Markets

Des Moines Downtown Winter Market. Dec. 17, 11 a.m.-2 p.m., Dec. 18, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Capital Square Mall, 400 Locust Street.

What you’ll love: At the statewide celebration of local food and the holiday season, you’ll find a wide variety of holiday activities for the entire family, strolling carolers, artist demonstrations, kids’ activities, and more. Vendors offer verything from eggs, duck, turkeys, and holiday hams, to honey, jams, salsa, wine, cheese, homemade noodles, breads, and pies, plus poinsettias, fresh-cut Christmas trees, and handmade holiday ornaments.     

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