Dickens of a Christmas celebrates 34th year this weekend

Photo by John Eaton
As the band plays, the Fezziwigs and visitors at the 2016 Dickens of a Christmas do the Sir Roger de Coverley contra dance in Wellsboro.

Photo by John Eaton As the band plays, the Fezziwigs and visitors at the 2016 Dickens of a Christmas do the Sir Roger de Coverley contra dance in Wellsboro.

Special to the Sun-Gazette

WELLSBORO — The community’s Dickens of a Christmas is celebrating its 34th anniversary this Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 1, 2 and 3.

The festival annually rekindles the holiday spirit by turning back the clock to England’s Victorian era and author Charles Dickens’ time.

“I am really excited this year,” said Julie VanNess, Wellsboro Area Chamber of Commerce executive director. “We filled up with vendors quickly, Hamilton-Gibson Productions is planning to have more street performances and this is the second year of our Dickens Best Dressed Contest, with prizes valued at $1,000. That adds up to a lot of fun.

“From my perspective,” she said, “seeing people really enjoying themselves and coming together as Dickens’ characters, like the Fezziwigs, and singers and musicians willingly sharing their talents is really refreshing and in keeping with the spirit of the day. People having a good time, that’s what our festival is all about.”

Thomas Putnam, founder and artistic director of Hamilton-Gibson Productions echoed her thoughts.

“The Fezziwigs are characters from Charles Dickens’ book, ‘A Christmas Carol’ and embody the best of the holiday season. Our street performers hope to do the Fezziwigs justice by welcoming guests and locals with warmth, good cheer, music and good fun.”

As described by Dickens, Fezziwig is a prosperous London businessman to whom both the young Ebenezer Scrooge and Jacob Marley were apprenticed. He is a jolly and rotund fellow who shows that it is possible for moneymakers to have their cake and share some too.

Each year, Mr. and Mrs. Fezziwig throw a Christmas Eve party at the warehouse where Scrooge and Marley apprenticed.

“There is a whole list of people that Dickens says come to the party — from the Fezziwigs’ daughters and their boyfriends to friends, apprentices, poor neighborhood children, the milkman, the baker, the housemaid … They are all warmly welcomed and encouraged to have fun,” Putnam said.

On Saturday, Wellsboro’s downtown streets will be closed to motorized traffic and magically transform into an early Victorian marketplace. Promptly at 9 a.m., the town crier will greet everyone with the ringing of his bell and announcements of the day.

Also at that time, Mr. and Mrs. Fezziwig will take the stage at the Main and Crafton streets intersection to welcome the crowd. They and members of the Fezziwig entourage will perform skits such as the spoof “The History of the British Monarchy.” They will sing “I Saw Three Ships Come Sailing In” and a rousing rendition of “The Twelve Days of Christmas” with the Fezziwig entourage dividing into groups for each of the 12 days.

The Fezziwigs will lead two sets of dancers in doing the Sir Roger de Coverley contra dance, a highlight of their Christmas Eve party.

The contra dance is easy to learn and fun to do,” said Putnam. “There will be other dances too.

Mrs. Fezziwig will give a humorous dramatization of a poem by Henry Van Dyke called the “Little Foolish Fir-Tree.”

A troupe of jugglers will perform and apprentices will sell locally made soap from a cart as they sing their theme song, he said. The words are: “Here’s one, two or three smelly lads, all in a heap./If they stand near the fire they will smell of dead sheep./They will smell of dead sheep as they sing out the King./And demand good cheer from you if you wear a gold ring.”

“Passersby will be encouraged to join in, no matter what is being performed or where,” Putnam added.

The Fezziwigs will also lead the 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Victorian Strolls along Main Street. All invited to take part whether in costume or not. They will walk by the community boulevards decorated with fresh Christmas trees covered with lights and ornaments and the gaslights with evergreen wreaths and bows.

Outdoor art and craft vendors will offer hand carved Christmas trees, homemade jams, jellies, cheeses and meats, hand-painted, wood and hand blown glass Christmas ornaments, handmade pottery, furniture, jewelry, specialty candles, hats and scarves, pet treats, birdhouses and bird feeders, heirloom Santa clauses, stuffed animals and dolls, wrought iron and hand-turned wooden pieces, fresh Christmas wreaths, garlands, swags, centerpieces and greens and much, much more.

More than 75 artists, craftsmen and food vendors will be found at three indoor craft shows. Open on Friday and Saturday will be the craft shows at the United Methodist Church and Wellsboro Senior Center and at the Wellsboro Firemen’s Annex on Saturday only.

Restaurants and outdoor food vendors will tickle the tastebuds and warm tummies with hot chocolate, chili, homemade soups and chowders, bread pudding, homemade cookies, pies and candies, hot roast beef sandwiches, crab cakes, fresh roasted peanuts, deep-fried dill pickles, hot cider and coffee, sausage sandwiches, whoopie pies, peanut brittle, kettle corn and apple dumplings.

Hamilton-Gibson will present A Dickens of a Concert Friday night and six performances of “A Christmas Carol” at the Deane Center’s two theatres on Saturday and one performance on Sunday.

The Arcadia Theatre is showing the film “A Miracle on 34th Street” all three days.

At the Gmeiner Art and Cultural Center on Friday night will be a holiday open house to celebrate the opening of two new art exhibits, with work by artists from Bloomsburg, Williamsport, Bradford and Tioga County communities and Elmira, New York. The other is a display of woodblock self-portrait and woodcut “My Space” prints by Bloomsburg University printmaking students.

On Friday night and Saturday and Sunday only, there will be a pop-up gallery with yarn, patterns, kits and a book for knitters and an art quilt made to be raffled off by Mountain Laurel Quilt Guild members.

Local churches will hold a variety of indoor events Friday and Saturday. Among them are a Dickens of a Dinner, lunches, concerts, a display of model trains, a cookie sale and, in the spirit of helping others, an Alternative Giving Christmas Fair with entertainment and refreshments.

At 5 p.m. Saturday, the Candlelight Walk for Peace will begin at Packer Park on Queen Street and, at 5:30 p.m., the annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony with Santa and a carol sing will be on The Green.

For a schedule of events, visit the website www.wellsboropa.com.

Or, contact the Wellsboro Area Chamber of Commerce, 114 Main St., Wellsboro, PA 16901, by phone at 570-724-1926 or email at info@wellsboropa.com.

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