Rein in some prime holiday gifts at the Nutcracker Market

Alysa Slocum

Staff Writer

The holiday season is here, and the rush is on for the perfect gift. There are those who, due to lack of funds, will search every nook and cranny of their humble dwellings for something to wrap up and give. However, most Americans will hound store vendors until Christmas Eve for that bit of perfection. For these shop-a-holics, there is an added bonus each holiday season - the Nutcracker Market, one of the largest holiday markets in the US

Preston Frazier, a long-time supporter of the Houston Ballet, went to the Guild Board in 1981 with a radical new way to raise scholarship funds for the Houston Ballet Academy. Frazier's dream was to create a holiday market in the style of traditional European and Latin American street makets.

Frazier's idea was tested by Mineth Ellis and Barbara Patton, who used a low-budget, two-day sale at St. Philip's Presbyterian Church as a starting point. When former First Lady Barbara Bush returned to do a little holiday shopping of her own after cutting the ribbon at the Preview Party, the stage was set for success.

With a steady growth of profit from a gross of $28,000 during that first two-day sale to a net of $526,000 in 1992, it is no wonder that the following years saw even bigger profits. The 1995 Nutcracker Market, which featured 275 vendors and catered to 36,000 shoppers, raked in $775,000 for the Houston Ballet Foundation.

After Lynda Transier took the reins last year, the Market soared with vendor sales of over $4.3 million, attendance of over 43,000 and $1.1 million of proceeds for the Houston Ballet Foundation.

"The Nutcracker Market is an enormous contributor to the Houston Ballet annually," stated Ms. Connie Linnartz, the Director of Market and Public Relations for the Houston Ballet.

The Market has contributed over $5 million to the Houston Ballet Foundation in support of dancer scholarships. More than 75 percent of the dancers in the Houston Ballet have received at least half of their training at the Houston Ballet Academy.

The Houston Ballet Guild will be holding the 17th Annual Nutcracker Market, chaired by Mrs. Anne Graubart, this Thursday through Sunday at the Astrohall, next to the Astrodome.

As Houston native and former Cougar, Ms. Linnartz suggested that the Market is an opportunity to see things that cannot be found in other places. Indeed, there is much to be found at the Market.

Over 280 vendors from across the country will be participating this year, offering shoppers a cornucopia of unique gifts, including quality hand-crafted items.

Among these gifts will be a variety of gourmet foods, housewares and furnishings, holiday decorations, jewelry, toys, and apparel.

"It's not like what you would see at the mall," said Linnartz. "Not all of it is holiday geared, but the Market is perfect for shopping for the holiday season."

Whether you're interested in contributing to the training of future dancers or searching for that perfect gift, the Nutcracker Market is an experience to be had at least once.

"It's great to go and do with family or friends," explained Ms. Linnartz, "because you can just spend the day strolling along, talking and looking for good stuff."

Related events including the Neiman Marcus Luncheon and Style Show will be held Thursday from 9 a.m. to noon. The Foley's Mother/Daughter/ Son Holiday Brunch and Style Show will be held on Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Tickets for the Nutcracker Market are $7, and children under 5 are admitted free. Discount tickets are now being sold at all Houston area Randall's stores.

For more information and times, contact Patsy Chapman at (713) 523-6300, ext. 271, or visit the Houston Ballet on the web at www.neosoft.com/~ballet.

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