Wunderhaus Restaurant is hosting its second annual winter market this Sunday. 

This is the fifth and final market of the seasonal Wunder Market series and will feature open air, a European-style arts and crafts market with live performances, family-friendly activities, shopping and farm fresh food, according to one of WunderHaus’s owners Jacqueline Smith.

The event starts at 1 p.m. Dec. 1 at the corner of Locust and Oak streets. Admission is free. 

“The goal from the beginning was to create a once a year event, with the possibility of expanding to seasonal markets,” she said. “After the overwhelming response from vendors, attendees and community members from our inaugural event, we decided that we would expand to offer four dates a year.”

So far, so good. 

“The response from the community has been wonderful – mostly positive, with some suggestions on how we might improve the market,” Smith said. “We are taking all the feedback to heart and will make necessary changes to our infrastructure in 2020.”

She said they’ve had great feedback from regular guests at the restaurant and people that see them out and about.

“It’s been humbling, to say the least,” the market planner said.

One of the big takeaways from the last market they had was that it was extremely difficult to get into WunderHaus, which they have addressed by adding a satellite Wundergrill Station to the layout, helping ease the flow of food service.

“Furthermore, we have had numerous in-kind sponsorships and some financial sponsorships,” Smith said. “Mayor (Bart) Castleberry was kind enough to grant us access to both Locust (Avenue), and our little portion of Oak Street, so we have been able to double our market space within the span of a year to accommodate more vendors and plenty of children’s activities.” 

In addition to the space expansion, the group has also strengthened on the the market’s concept and focus too. 

“For Autumn Market, we were able to offer a, ‘Bake the World a Better Place,’ baking contest with local celebrity judges, and a small silent auction,” Smith said. “We will will fine tune those aspects of the market for next year’s series and make this a more involved facet of these events.”

For the winter market, they are “testing the waters” with a Yule Log Cake Baking Contest. The entry fee is $10 and is being judged by Castleberry, University of Central Arkansas President Houston Davis and local food writer Greg Henderson. 

“Entrants will have the opportunity to impress a few big names in our area,” Smith said. 

Smith wanted to give readers a little history about the Yule Log Cake, or bûche de Noël, which began before the medieval era. She Celtic Brits and Gaelic Europeans would gather to welcome the winter solstice at December’s end and people would feast to celebrate the days finally becoming longer, signaling the end of the winter season.

“To cleanse the air of the previous year’s events and to usher in the spring, families would burn logs decorated with holly, pinecones or ivy,” Smith added. “Judging from the individual ingredients, the bûche de Noël could have been conceived as early as the 1600s. Parisian bakers popularized the cake in the 19th century and different bakeries became known for their more elaborate decorations.

“They are really works of art and we are encouraging our entrants to personalize their Yule Log Cakes in terms of flavors and themes.”

Smith also mentioned the, “Knit-a-thon,” which fans of the show, “Gilmore Girls,” would be happy to see on the list of activities. 

“A local group of knitting enthusiasts offered to put this together for us, and we could not be more thrilled about it,” she said. “All ages are welcome to participate, and the finished work will go to The Certain Little Free Class Pantry. Speaking of which, Crystal Certain will be joining us in the WunderKind corner for story time as the Ice Queen.” 

The day will also feature a photo booth, with two purposes. One to take photos with Santa and Mrs. Claus during scheduled times and the March of the Snowmen, where children will march through the market together with snowmen masks. 

“I could not have foreseen the impact these events would make on the shop local initiative and our community at large in such a short period of time,” Smith said. “I knew that there was a niché to fill and a desire for this kind of homegrown event, but I wasn’t prepared for the overwhelmingly positive response. With almost 70 vendors, we are at maximum capacity.”

She said when they started WunderHaus, they entered into the business of feeding people with an intent to convey a feeling, knowing that by honoring the ingredients they were working with and investing in honest work done by “wonderful people,” they could create a European Grandma’s house feeling in a place of eatery. 

“The food is slow to come out of the kitchen and the space and menus have been prepared with intention – WunderHaus is devoid of televisions for a reason,” Smith said. “We hope that guests connect with one another, with other patrons, and with their food. We are trying to foster a sentiment within our walls that we believe the general public is in search of... and this market project is an extension of that feeling.”

She said the Germans call it, “Wunder,” and as a verb, means to wonder, but as a noun means something else entirely; a miracle or mystery, or the wonder of nature.

“The intent is for people to have the space to take the time to connect, but then there’s another facet of the market that is aimed at enriching our community,” Smith added. “Most profits from this endeavor go into a restricted, ‘Green Space,’ account held by The Locals – a non profit organization based here in Conway.”

That money will be put back into the community through artful public use installations like pollinator gardens food forests.

“In short, that’s just one thing I’m excited about, having the opportunity to foster a sense of, ‘Wunder,’ in our community,” Smith said. “We started with food, and now we get to do this through our events. With help from our community, we’ll get to expand the vision to create beautiful green spaces in which people can create meaningful memories with the ones they love.”

Every item sold during the markets, she said is made with the skill of an artist and their diligence and passion. 

“A purchase at our market puts your money into the hands of families like yours and it makes a positive economic impact on our state,” Smith said. “Purveyors of quality food, original artwork, leatherwork and makers of ornaments and other holiday decor vend alongside jewelry makers, soap makers, and carpenters to participate in a circle of love where shopping is a community event, a childhood memory, and a family experience.”

Staff writer Hilary Andrews can be reached at handrews@thecabin.net.

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