Nov 26, 2008 Miranda L. Pennock Uncategorized
The little village of Skaneateles is getting ready for its most extravagant event of the year — Dickens Christmas.
To get things started, the Skaneateles Area Chamber of Commerce held a kick off party on Tuesday evening at M&T bank on East Genesee Street. The festival begins at noon Friday Nov. 29 at the Sherwood Inn and runs from noon to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays until Christmas.
“Tonight is really to say thank you to our sponsors,” said Sue Dove, executive director of the Chamber.
Without sponsors, the event would not be possible because instead of just a few large sponsors, Dickens receives support from many companies on every level, from the little businesses to the large ones.
The early evening meet and greet, which was the Chamber’s traditional November Business After Hours event for members, was co-sponsored by M&T and Verizon Fios. Anyela’s Vineyards supplied a variety of wines from their cellar and Grammie’s Pantry provided sweet treats for nibbling on.
According to Dick Pitman, president of the Skaneateles Area Chamber of Commerce, the bank has hosted the kick off party since the beginning of the Dickens Christmas run.
“It was an event started to kind of do a Victorian type celebration,” Pitman said.
The festival has grown over the last 15 years it’s been held and there are many individual events that are held during the Christmas festival.
Dove takes pride in the tiring work of putting the event together. Despite the hours and time put into Dickens, though, Dove spoke about the event with satisfaction.
“It’s really two-fold,” she said. “A lot of families that come back have made it part of their tradition. It’s fun to hear all those kinds of stories.”
Second, Dove said the festival has become a cherished event for Chamber and Merchant’s Association members.
Not only is the village decorated and nostalgic of the Victorian era, but the characters — a mixture of paid and volunteer actors — roam the streets acting their parts, which include the likes of Charles Dickens, Abigail Fillmore, Ebenezer Scrooge, Father Christmas and Queen Victoria.
Kelly Stallard, who has the opportunity to act as the mayor’s wife, Abigail Fillmore, has been in the character for four years and said she enjoys working during Dickens. Each year the character is a little different because Stallard skews her acting around world and local events.
“I greatly enjoy playing this character,” she said. “As the mayor’s wife, I get to be the hostess.”
Stallard is also the musical director of the festival and has been doing this kind of theater for a number of years. She also gets the opportunity to work with close friends, like Jim Greene who plays Charles Dickens, during the festival.
“Once I put one the hat, I become Dickens,” Greene said. Aside from his character, he is also the coordinator of all the actors who make the village come to life.
Greene said one of his favorite parts of Dickens Christmas is “the chance to interact with so many people and have a chance to make people smile.”
A big kid himself, the bearded Dickens said he tries to interact with the children as well and that all the actors strive to be non-threatening. Greene said he squats down and talks softer when with kids.
“It’s a great event,” Pitman said. “We’re hoping the economy doesn’t discourage people from coming.”
Speaking of money, Ebenezer Scrooge, played by Bob E. Krigbaum, has been coming to town collecting rent money from the local merchants for many years. Krigbaum said he was recruited for Dickens Christmas and has been coming back ever since.
“I have fun with it,” he said. “I go in (the stores) and ask for their rent money.”
Krigbaum said customers in the stores he stops in get a kick out of it when he comes in asking for payment.
While everyone involved with Dickens hopes this year is as successful as previous years, some are fearful that the planned truck convoy driving through the village will put a damper on the festivities.
Truckers and Citizens Unite of New York will be holding the convoy in protest of proposed regulations by the Department of Transportation to limit trucks on several roads in the Finger Lakes region.
“It’s just unfortunate that we’re going to be dealing with some unwanted visitors,” said Mayor Bob Green.
Organizers of the protest have promised that the event is going to be peaceful, he said. “We have to take their word on it.”
According to Skaneateles Police Chief Lloyd Perkins, there is a plan in place should the trucks stop for any unnecessary reason and the New York State Police and Onondaga County Sheriff’s Department will be on hand to assist with additional police enforcement.
“We’re looking forward to this. We’re going to turn this negative into a positive,” Perkins said, adding this year might be one of the most well attended Dickens events because of all the additional publicity and media attention.
Perkins said some have threatened to park their rigs on Genesee Street Thursday night, and to keep that from happening the police department is encouraging residents to park along the street beginning in the early evening. There will be no parking tickets written Thursday night, he said.
As people begin coming into the village for Dickens, residents then should move their vehicles to allow others to park. Additional parking is available at the Allyn Arena, the old ice rink on Jordan Street.
The organizers of the truck event are expecting to leave the Petro station at Thruway exit 41 between 9 and 10 a.m. and begin making their way to Skaneateles. Local Police will have a command post set up at the Skanteateles Fire Department on West Genesee Street where they will be in contact with State Police and the truck organizers.
Perkins said he would not expect to see any of the trucks coming through the village until at least noon, which is also when Dickens begins.
A message from the Skaneateles Area Chamber of Commerce
Due to the truck convoy, the Chamber and Merchants Association are encouraging visitors to arrive early for the opening day, Friday Nov. 19. Most stores will be open at 9 or 10 a.m.
The following routes into Skaneateles are suggested:
From the east: Take the New York State Thruway to exit 34A, Route 481 south to Route 81; Route 81 south to exit 15, Lafayette; Route 20 west to Skaneateles. Look for the special event parking signs on Route 20 when coming into the village.
From the west: Take the Thruway to exit 40/Weedsport. Take a right onto Route 34. Come into the village of Weedsport, and take a left onto Route 31B. Take a left onto Route 5, and a right onto Jordan Road at the blinking light. Take Jordan Road into Skaneateles, and watch for the parking signs when entering the village.
From the north: Take Route 81 south to Bear Street, to 690 west. Follow signs for Auburn to exit at 695 to the end. Exit right onto Route 5 west. Proceed to Route 321 (second stop light). Turn left and travel eight miles on 321 into Skaneateles. Look for the special event parking signs on 321 when in the village.
From the south: Take Route 81 north to exit 12. Turn right at the end of the exit ramp onto Route 281. Approximately one mile up the road, take a left onto Route 41 north. Take a left onto Route 20 in Skaneateles. Look for the special event parking signs on Route 20 when coming into the village.
Parking is available at the following locations:
* Municipal lot between Jordan and State streets
* Old fire house lot on Fennell Street
* First Presbyterian Church lot at 97 E. Genesee St.
* School lot at the corner of Leitch and East Elizabeth streets (a two-block walk to downtown)
* Austin Park Lot on State Street (a three-block walk to downtown)
Dickens Christmas gets under way at noon on the steps of the Sherwood Inn, with the grand entrance of Charles Dickens, Queen Victoria and the rest of their entourage, including the rascally Scrooge. Sing-a-longs and other entertainment will continue throughout the day, along with free carriage rides, refreshments and programs for children.
“We’re doing everything we can to ensure any disruptions will be minimal, and visitors to Dickens Christmas will have the unique, Victorian holiday experience they’ve come to enjoy,” said Susan Dove, executive director of the Skaneateles Area Chamber of Commerce.