If you’ve walked by City Hall this week, you may have seen a massive tent going up in De la Guerra Plaza with what looks like Christmas decorations hanging inside and wondered what’s going on.
Curious Christmas shoppers won’t have much longer to wait.
The Santa Barbara Trading Post’s Twilight Holiday Market, an 18-day European-style night market right in the heart of downtown Santa Barbara, will open Dec. 6 at 4 p.m.
The indoor market will mark the first time an event has occupied the Plaza for more than seven days, according to Vashti Wilson, the founder and owner of Santa Barbara Trading Post. From Dec 6 to 23, locals can wander through the Market’s massive tent to shop at 70 local vendors and enjoy food, drinks, and live music as they look for the perfect Christmas gift.
The festive market almost didn’t happen, but thankfully Ms. Wilson, an Air Force veteran, stepped in to save the day.
Last year, Ms. Wilson worked as the sales and marketing director for the previous iteration of the market. When the organizer abruptly cancelled the market in October, Ms. Wilson felt obligated to immediately step in and make sure the vendors who signed on would not be left out in the cold.
“When you’re a vendor you have to book these holiday markets early. They get filled up really quickly, so then they were in this spot where they couldn’t book another market because they were full and they didn’t have the money even if they did find a market,” said Ms. Wilson.
Making sure the vendors found a home the holidays was personal for Ms. Wilson, as she was the one who had signed many of them on as the sales and marketing director for the cancelled market.
“I don’t know if that was my military background, but I was responsible to help them land somewhere,” said Ms. Wilson
Now the vendors will have a home in the beautiful 100-foot long, 4,000-square-foot tent, made possible by Town & Country, who stepped in to give the event a discounted rate on the tent after other options proved too costly.
The night market will feature a beer and wine garden in it’s backyard, and next week Casa De La Guerra will host 30 outdoor vendors who will be on rotation. The 40 permanent vendors in the tent will share the space with food favorites like Kaptains BBQ Shack, the Juice Ranch and McConnell’s Ice Cream.
Vendor highlights include Pura Luna Women’s Apothecary, which provides women with earth-based options for healthcare and healing; handmade lambswool travel slippers from Jane-Ellyn; and eco-friendly wooden puzzles and games from Creative Crafthouse.
Ms. Wilson’s own company, Dino Explorerz, will also be there with handcrafted organic dinosaur eggs, the same used in the latest Jurassic Park movie and which sold out at last year’s market, Ms. Wilson told the News-Press.
Putting everything together in two months has been an enormous challenge, but Ms. Wilson thanked Katie Hershelt from Cultivate Events, Nina Johnson from the city and the staff at the Parks and Recreation department, saying each went above and beyond.
“There were some days where I didn’t know how it would turn out but we did it and it looks good,” said Ms. Wilson.
In addition to putting on the Twilight Holiday Market, Ms. Wilson is using the opportunity as a test batch for her new venture, Santa Barbara Trading Post, which she hopes to launch in February.
All of the vendors participating in the market will be the first vendors to be hosted on SantaBarbaraTradingPost.com, a platform for local vendors to be able to sell their goods that Ms. Wilson described as a sort of “Etsy for Santa Barbara County.” The site is an effort to capture the experience of a local market in a digital format.
“This would allow them to upload their wares, if you will, and a community to be able to support them, but in an online way,” said Ms. Wilson.
While Ms. Wilson has done a great deal to help vendors make the Christmas sales, the months following the holidays can be particularly brutal, especially for vendors who rely on outdoor markets. With Santa Barbara Trading Post, Ms. Wilson hopes to keep Santa Barbara buying local year round.
“I love Amazon, don’t get me wrong, but instead of going there and shopping at Walmart, why not go to the Santa Barbara Trading Post? You know that you are shopping from local vendors from our community,” said Ms. Wilson.
Market hours are Monday through Saturday from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., and noon to 6 p.m. on Sundays. For more information visit santabarbaratradingpost.com.