Fashion / Shopping

Treasured Nutcracker Market to be Virtual Only in 2020 — Houston’s Grand Holiday Shopping Tradition Faces a New Reality

The Coronavirus Grinch Strikes Again

BY // 09.16.20

Well, hells bells! The Houston Ballet Nutcracker Market, one of our favorite diversions of the holiday season, is going virtual. There will be no merry throngs coursing through NRG Center with bursting shopping bags this November. Instead, the shopping will be done in our pajamas from home where we will tune in to a dedicated platform, martinis in hand.

COVID-19, of course, is the grinch who is stealing this holiday tradition.

“Despite our best efforts, there simply was not a feasible way to host a safe event at the level that our merchants and shoppers expect and deserve,” Patsy Chapman, CEO of Houston Ballet Nutcracker Market, says in a statement. The decision was put off as long as possible, even as the annual Saks Fifth Avenue luncheon was cancelled in the summer.

This is not exactly what organizers had planned for the 40th anniversary of the extraordinary fundraiser.

All fun, however, is not lost. The merchants who make this market so special will offer their must-haves online November 11 through December 11. To date, close to 200 returning and new participants have signed on to light up the home screen with holiday joviality. Count on Two Tequila Sisters and The Pajama Princess (how timely) among the regulars while welcoming newcomers Boone Branch, The Incredible Christmas Place, and Parker & Hyde.

The traditional Wells Fargo Early Bird shopping opportunity continues in a new format. For $3o shoppers gain access on November 11 to have first dibs on the goodies that include home decor, gourmet food, clothing, accessories, jewelry toys, pet items and more. Early Bird special offerings include discounts, promotions and giveaways.

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Beginning November 12, all shoppers have free access to the virtual market through December 11.

Houston Ballet Nutcracker Market (Photo by Fulton Davenport/PWL Studio)
Oh what fun it was at the Houston Ballet Nutcracker Market in 2019. (Photo by Fulton Davenport/PWL Studio)

The Nutcracker Market is the ballet’s largest fundraiser, last year bringing in $5.4 million for ballet coffers after $20.4 million in sales. Since its founding in 1981, the market has raised $74.2 million for the Houston Ballet Foundation. So the importance of this year’s virtual event cannot be overstated.

“Continued support during this especially difficult time is greatly appreciated by everyone involved with Nutcracker Market, including our wonderful merchants and Houston Ballet Foundation,” Chapman says.

The fall season was put on ice until the December 4 Margaret Alkek Williams Jubilee of Dance and The Nutcracker performances, which typically generates $5 million in revenue, is being replaced with a number of limited holiday performances.

Further emphasizing the importance of the market, Houston Ballet artistic director Stanton Welch notes, “It goes without saying how important the Nutcracker Market is to Houston Ballet and for all the opportunities they give us through this extraordinary philanthropic event.”

Tallying the market’s impact, the ballet statement reads: “With the funds raised in 2019, 74,000 Houston-area students were exposed to ballet through the Academy’s Education and Community Engagement programs, $942,870 was awarded to approximately 246 students this past season to continue their dream of studying dance at Houston Ballet Academy, and students from nearly 368 Houston area schools and community centers got their first opportunity to see ballet and hear from dancers through free programming, performances and classes at Houston Ballet’s prestigious Center for Dance.”

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