Dickens Christmas opens Nov. 24
Weekends between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the lakeside village of Skaneateles takes its cue from Dickensian England, as “A Christmas Carol” comes to life, enchanting holiday shoppers.
The year is 1842, and Queen Victoria has arrived in town accompanied by Charles Dickens, whom she has commissioned to write a Christmas story. To mark the occasion, Mayor Fezziwig and his wife are planning “a celebration like no other, with joyful noise each day at the Midday Revels,” as Mrs. Fezziwig leads the town in caroling.
During their month-long stay, Dickens gains inspiration from a bevy of now-familiar characters, including Scrooge, the Cratchits, Tiny Tim, the Fezziwigs, the Spirit of Christmas Past and the Ghost of Jacob Marley, along with finishing school girls, pickpockets and other villagers.
The story unfolds each week, as Dickens and his entourage interact with cast members and passersby.
“The real magic of our little Christmas party is the human connection we make when we look each other in the eye and wish each other well,” says producing director Jim Greene. “Dickens offers us the opportunity to revel in the greater gift of simply caring for one another. This has become a Christmas tradition for all of us in the Dickens Christmas family.”
Dickens Christmas draws more than 20,000 visitors each year. It is produced by Scarlett Rat Entertainment and presented by Stifel Investment Services, the Skaneateles Area Chamber of Commerce Foundation and the Skaneateles-area business community.
The production opens the Friday after Thanksgiving and runs noon to 4 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday through Dec. 23, with a limited show (noon to 2:30 p.m.) Dec. 24.
Highlights of this year’s season include:
World’s Smallest Christmas Parade. Nov. 24, starting at noon at the Skaneateles Village Hall on Fennell Street, proceeding east to Jordan and Genesee streets and arriving at the Hannum House porch in time for the 12:10 p.m. grand opening.
Midday Revels—Christmas carol sing-along—2 p.m. every day at the gazebo. Twelve groups form, representing the 12 days of Christmas. The groups vie for attention, and at the end, Queen Victoria awards a silver teasel to the most spirited performer. Winners have been known to wear their coveted silver teasels throughout the season.
Scenes from “A Christmas Carol,” featuring guests from the audience, performed at 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. at the gazebo.
Horse-drawn wagon and carriage rides around the village, departing from the Sherwood Inn, provided by Rt. 80 Quarry Ridge Stables. Wagon rides are $2; carriage rides are offered for a $20 donation.
Comedy juggling shows, featuring deeds of danger and dexterity by Mervyn Brimble Gigglewick (also known as The Harmless Danger Juggling Show) at 1 and 3 p.m. Nov. 24, 25 and 26 and Dec. 16 and 17 at the Skaneateles Library.
A snowman-building contest in Clift Park Dec. 17 (weather-permitting). Bring your own supplies and creativity! Queen Victoria will judge the entries at 2:45 p.m., with the winner receiving a $50 gift certificate from the Sherwood Inn.
Free refreshments, including roasted chestnuts or other holiday treats donated by Tops Friendly Markets and Johnny Angel’s, warm Christmas pudding at Mid-Lakes Navigation, and Byrne Dairy eggnog served by the Girl Scouts (Saturdays only).
For children, Mother Goose will read holiday stories at Loft 42 and Father Christmas will hand out treats from the porch of the Masonic Temple.
“While you’re in town, be sure to visit our unique shops and restaurants, which are the perfect complement to a holiday outing,” says Tara Lynn, executive director of the chamber.
Behind the Scenes
Dickens Christmas has more than 70 cast members, including young apprentice talent, who are joined by a variety of guest musicians and caroling groups. The show comes together in just six rehearsals.
“We pack a lot in and streamline the process of building a character,” says Jim Greene, of Dryden, who is producing director and plays Dickens. “Every actor learns music and uses improvisational techniques to build his character and become part of the ensemble.”
Greene is assisted by:
Dickens Christmas is made possible by the sponsorship support of nearly 150 local businesses. This year’s presenting sponsor is Stifel Investment Services.
The festival is further supported through ticket sales from a Dickens Raffle. Prizes are a $750 gift certificate from Mirbeau Inn & Spa, a family membership to the Skaneateles YMCA and Community Center, an overnight stay at Hannum House, $200 Shop & Dine gift certificates, two SU Men’s Basketball tickets and a gift basket from Rhubarb.
Raffle tickets–$5 each, three for $10, 10 for $20—are on sale at the Skaneateles Area Chamber of Commerce and other village locations.
Paid parking is available in the municipal lot between Jordan and State streets; free parking is available in the lot adjacent to Ace Hardware/Skaneateles Town Square on Fennell Street and at the Austin Park Pavilion, at the corner of Jordan and Austin streets. A horse-drawn wagon will shuttle between both locations and the village. Tickets for the shuttle, which runs from 11:30 a.m. to 3:45 p.m., are $2 per person each way, $10 per family (maximum of six people). Shuttle riders will receive a coupon for a free holiday ornament from the Skaneateles Area Chamber of Commerce.