When Sophie Barral joined the Rosslyn BID last December as events manager, the 2015 Rosslyn Holiday Market Festival + Bonfire was just a few days away. She spent her first days on the job shadowing the team that had organized the 2015 event and pitching in wherever she could.
Barral started planning for the 2016 market in early summer. In the final run-up to the December 9 and 10 event, she was busy tending to dozens of last-minute details that would ensure everything ran smoothly. Her to-do list was long and varied: One day, she was circling Gateway Park to figure out the best parking options for attendees and sketching out where different activities would take place. The next day, she was reviewing backdrops for the free holiday photos with Santa and planning drink menus for the Pub in the Park.
More than anything, she wanted this year's market to be an experience, not just a shopping excursion.
"We want this market to go beyond holiday shopping: It's also about being outside and spending time with family and friends," she said.
Barral's vision for this year's market reflected her experiences growing up in the southwest of France and visiting holiday markets in France and Germany with her family.
"When we created this year's holiday market we thought about the traditions of the holiday markets in Europe -- specifically in Germany and Austria," she said. "We came up with activities that are good for children as well as families and young professionals. We’re really excited to have so many things happening over the course of just two days in Rosslyn."
This year's market featured 28 local vendors offering a wide variety of products, including jewelry, handmade accessories, kids’ books, food (including gourmet chocolate) and quirky gifts. Barral added some new features to this year's schedule, such as performances by local choral groups and a free holiday card mailing station where attendees could send cards to their families that were created on-site by a local calligraphy artist. At the same time, she retained some of last year's favorite elements, including the Friday afternoon boot camp exercise class and the live band, Pub in the Park and bonfire on Friday night.
Barral said she was grateful to the many people who worked hard to plan this year's event, especially partners from Arlington County Parks and Recreation who organized the bonfire for the second year in a row.
"We love doing events in Gateway Park. It’s a great place for a market because it's a large and welcoming space, so it never feels too crowded," she says. "It’s always nice to experience the holidays outside in the park with lights in the trees. We want to create a different universe so people don't feel like they're in the middle of a city but in a really fun winter wonderland."