At Holiday Time Ballet Trumps Pro-Football

Houston Ballet’s Annual Nutcracker Market Takes Over Reliant Center

By Lisa Traiger

Since when does ballet trump NFL football? When more than 300 craft and Nutcracker-themed vendors and artisans overtake Reliant Center for the Houston Ballet’s long-running annual pre-Christmastime event dubbed the Nutcracker Market. In fact, dance lovers take note, the general manager of Reliant Center, where the Houston Texans play their NFL home games and a rodeo rides, each year ensures that a week in November gets set aside for the ballet’s beloved annual Nutcracker Market. The popular market this year attracted 112,396 patrons who enjoyed browsing and purchasing Nutcracker- and other Christmas-themed gifts, arts, crafts, clothing, toys, and gourmet food, along with opportunities for star-struck children to meet and get photos taken with the Houston Ballet’s advanced students all decked out in Sugarplum-styled tutus. By comparison, 73,294 patrons bought tickets to the company’s 2012 Nutcracker production at the Wortham Theater Center.

An example of the elaborate booths at Houston Ballet's annual Nutcracker Market. Courtesy Houston Ballet.

An example of the elaborate booths at Houston Ballet’s annual Nutcracker Market. Courtesy Houston Ballet.

Reliant Center’s Assistant General Manager Jeffrey C. Gaines recently said: “The Nutcracker Market has a long and successful history at Reliant Park. Prior to the NFL returning to Houston in 2002, it was very important to us [that] the market have a sense of security that no Reliant Park/football issues would interfere with their scheduling. That being said, we are guaranteed the Houston Texans will have a road game on Nutcracker Market weekend.”

Started 33 years ago, these days the festive market occurs over six days and in 2013 netted $4.1 million for the Houston Ballet’s general operating fund, supporting the Houston Ballet Foundation, its academy and scholarship funds. “In 2012, we sold $4,358,695.87 worth of tickets at 37 performances of The Nutcracker,” said Andrew Edmonson, Houston Ballet director of marketing and public relations. The market has become an integral part of the holiday season in Houston. In fact, many regulars have taken a page from the football fans playbook and are now holding pre-Nutcracker Market tailgate parties before the doors open. Menus for the tailgate aren’t know, but surely there must be candy canes and sugar plums somewhere.

Lisa Traiger edits From the Green Room and writes on dance and the performing arts from the Washington, D.C., suburbs for publications including The Washington Post Weekend, Dance, Dance Teacher and The Forward.


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