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The Cambria Christmas Market will be closed to the public for the second year in a row due to local safety concerns.
The popular holiday attraction will be available to guests who book a stay at the Cambria Pines Lodge or two other hotels owned by Moonstone Hotel Properties, or dinner patrons partaking in a special German-style meal at the hotel.
In 2020, the market operated in a similar way due to restrictions in place by the San Luis Obispo Public Health Department during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, this year the restrictions are because the market does not have a permit from the county which would allow members of the public to attend.
“It’s a real bummer because I was really counting on being able to go with all of my friends this year,” liberal studies senior Elana Gladish said. “I remember my WOW leaders talking about how fun the market was but I never went. Since it’s my senior year I probably won’t get another chance.”
Generally drawing an average of 45,000 visitors per year, the Cambria Christmas Market is based on a traditional German Christmas market. It usually features more than two million lights, an open-air market with vendors, traditional German food and drinks, live music and elaborate holiday displays.
The Christmas Market began on Nov. 26 at Cambria Pines Lodge, 2905 Burton Drive in Cambria, and will run through Dec. 23.
With tickets having been on sale to the public since July, the market was intending to operate normally in 2021. The market’s application for a permit was even initially approved by the county Planning Commission on Oct. 22. However, Cambria locals asked the commission to reconsider.
At the time of publication, more than 250 people had signed a petition titled, “Stop 2021 Cambria Lodge Christmas Market”. In the first week of November three formal appeals were filed against the commission’s decision, one of which was authored by Cambria attorney, Russell Read.
The petition is chiefly concerned that the event could be a “COVID Super Spreader” while also expressing that the market: negatively impacts local businesses, causes traffic as well as noise and light pollution and is inconsistent with Cambria’s current state of water emergency.
“This Market … is a glitzy, artificially produced entertainment event that threatens the natural beauty and sustainability of the Coastal Zone and is an aggravation to many of its neighbors,” Read’s 10 page appeal states.
Since the permit was appealed, market coordinators decided that the event will be closed to the public and will also not feature its usual vendor booths.
“I can understand why locals have started to take issue with the market but people really love to make seeing Christmas lights into an event,” Gladish said. “The Cambria market is a very one-of-a-kind experience in SLO County and I hope that in the future, maybe, they can move it somewhere that can accommodate for large crowds.”
The market’s official website has been updated to state that tickets are sold out but you can still attend by making reservations for dinner or an overnight stay. The website also emphasizes that all pre-purchased tickets will still be honored.
“This Appeal is not anti-Christmas,” Read wrote. “It is a joy to witness the wonder in children’s eyes when they see Christmas lights, but they can find this experience many different — and more appropriate –– places within the county.”
For those looking for alternatives to the Cambria Christmas Market, last year the city of San Luis Obispo created a guide to local homes with holiday light displays.