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Century Downs to host German-themed Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas market)

Century Downs Racetrack and Casino is bringing back its German-themed Christmas market on Dec. 4 and 5, offering holiday shoppers the chance to seek out some locally made stocking stuffers while enjoying some authentic Germanic cuisine.
A shopper admires artwork in the barns at Century Downs Racetrack and Casino during a previous Weihnachtsmarkt Christmas market. This year's market will take place Dec. 4 and 5.

Century Downs Racetrack and Casino is bringing back its German-themed Christmas market on Dec. 4 and 5, offering holiday shoppers the chance to seek out locally made stocking stuffers while enjoying authentic Germanic cuisine.

The Balzac-based casino’s sixth annual Weihnachtsmarkt (the German word for Christmas Market) will be held from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the venue’s barn on the north side of its horse-racing track.

“If you’ve never come before, we’d love to show you around our barn,” said Karen Franco, marketing and guest services manager for Century Downs. “You’re going to find great stocking stuffers, some wonderful and unique Christmas gifts – everything from trees to metal works, wine racks, ornaments…charcuterie boards, you name it.”

Franco said the casino already had 55 local and regional vendors registered for the craft-oriented market as of Nov. 17, adding a few others will likely be added to the roster before the market is held.

“It’s a real host of different and unique gifts and items for the home,” she said.

“Once racing is closed, its’ fun to be able to open that space up and welcome people in.”

According to Franco, the German theme behind the Weihnachtsmarkt is due to the nationality of Century Downs’ head chef Josef Schonauer, who hails from Germany, where outdoor Christmas Markets are a time-honoured December tradition.

“It was a fun idea he brought to us to celebrate and put a different twist on a Christmas market,” Franco said. “We do our best to try and bring that flavour to our barn, and at the same time, hopefully provide an area for local vendors and crafters to show their wares.”

Going with the national theme, attendees will be able to enjoy some German street food, such as soft pretzels, pork schnitzel, and bratwurst, and sip Glühwein (mulled wine) as they go about their shopping.

In order to operate the market without capacity restrictions, Franco said Century Downs is abiding by the Alberta government’s Restriction Exemption Program (REP), which requires visitors to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination, a recent negative test result, or proof of a medical exemption for a COVID-19 immunization upon entry.

She added masking will also be mandatory for all visitors, staff, and vendors while inside the barn.

“We’re following all the guidelines with regard to COVID protocols,” she said. “Everyone in attendance, from our vendors to our staff and guests, will need to provide proof of vaccination as per AHS guidelines. Whatever is in place by Dec. 4 and 5 – we’re assuming the QR code proof of vaccination – that’s what we’ll be following. It’s the same as for our casino.”

The barn hosting the Weihnachtsmarkt is located at the north end of the Century Downs racetrack. Franco noted people can access the barn directly from Dwight McClellan Boulevard and that parking will be available.

“It’s right off the main street, so it’s certainly easy to find and access,” she said. “We’ll have lots of parking and will be able to direct people to parking.”

There’s no admission cost to enter the market, but Franco said Century Downs will be accepting donations at the door for the Mountainview Emergency Shelter Society in Olds.

For more information, visit the Century Downs website at and click on the calendar tab.

For additional information on the individual vendors, search the casino’s Facebook page.

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