Nutcracker Market: 33 Years of Consecutive Growth

From November 7 – 10, “Candy Cane Lane,” the thirty-third Nutcracker Market will roll into Reliant Center, welcoming over 100,000 guests and featuring over 300 national and international merchants with unique holiday gifts ranging from food to home décor to jewelry to clothing.

Nutcracker Market

In 2013, Houston Ballet Director of Special Events Patsy Chapman celebrates twenty-five years organizing and executing this beloved holiday event.  In this blog entry, Patsy looks back at how the market has grown and evolved, and shares some of the secrets of what makes the event so successful.  Click here for more information about The Nutcracker Market.


From first year gross revenues of $28,000, the Nutcracker Market now generates more than 100 times that amount, raising a net total of more than $3.8 million in 2012. Since its inception in 1981, the Market has raised more than $39 million for Houston Ballet, its Academy and Scholarship Programs.

Nutcracker Market booth

Patsy Chapman, Director of Special Events for the Ballet, and the driving force behind the Market’s success, has seen total sales grow from $13.7 million in 2009 to $15.6 million in 2010, to $16.4 million in 2011, and $17.7 million in 2012.  She has three explanations for the continued success of the Market – the very nature of the holiday season, the fresh environment every year, and the world’s best shoppers!

“People love to celebrate the holidays, in good times and in bad,” she said. “The Nutcracker Market gives them a reason to focus their energies on family, the spirit of giving, and spreading holiday cheer.  Every year we try to give them a totally new experience with a different theme.”

The 2013 chairman, Cynthia Brown, selected “Candy Cane Lane” as the theme.  Some past themes are:  Waltz of the Flowers, A Shopping Safari, Rockefeller Center Christmas, Puttin’ on the Dog, and Holiday Under the Big Top.

Nut Market 184

With only two full-time staff dedicated to planning and coordinating the annual Nutcracker Market – Chapman and her assistant – the event now represents a nationally-renowned holiday shopping extravaganza for over 104,000 attendees. She gives much of the credit to over 1,000 volunteers who work tirelessly every year to make the Market a reality.

“Some people put in 18 hours of work in one day because they love Houston Ballet and being a part of the Nutcracker Market,” Chapman said. “I’m in awe of those who choose to give their time and talents out of the goodness of their hearts.”

When Chapman first joined the organization, roughly 80 merchants offered their products at the Market. That number is now 300+ merchants from 149 cities in over 32 states. Between 15 and 30 new vendors are approved each year, out of around 400 who apply.

The Market used to be held in a 120,000 sq. ft. space at the George R. Brown Convention Center. As the event drew more attention from vendors and shoppers, it required more space, so it expanded to a 226,000 sq. ft. space in Astrohall, then to a section of Reliant Center. In 2009, the Nutcracker Market took over all of Reliant Center — over 1 million square feet!

“I always wonder what we can do to top the year before,” said Chapman. “One year, I heard a little girl ask, ‘Grandma, are we in Heaven?’ and I knew we had done well. But that just raises the bar for the next Nutcracker Market.”

The 2013 Nutcracker Market takes place November 7-10. For more information, visit and

Watch a video preview of The Nutcracker Market.

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