Dickens festival marks 30th year

WELLSBORO – The gas lights on Main Street’s boulevard are decked out in their annual holiday finery and there is an air of festivity as the borough readies itself for the 30th annual Dickens of a Christmas Celebration on Saturday.

On hand for the celebration to light the Christmas tree this anniversary year will be the 2013 Laurel Queen Hailey Innocenzo, of Towanda.

Thirty years ago, the festival started out as a small event for the local community.

Today it is a well-known celebration of Victorian Christmastime, filled with impromptu performances, concerts, poetry reading and skits.

It all happens the first Saturday in December each year when Wellsboro is transformed into an early Victorian marketplace, featuring all kinds of food and drink, as well as colorful and skillfully crafted items for gift giving or wearing.

The high school Dickens Choir will start the celebration at 9 a.m. in front of the Arcadia Theatre, getting visitors in the spirit with Christmas songs.

Other street musicians will begin their strolling performances, which will continue throughout the day, and the Dickens Players, “a diverse-but-talented assortment of amateur strolling performers,” will be on hand to entertain shoppers with their renditions of Christmas readings and dramas.

The 175 food and craft vendors spread up and down Main Street and spilling into the side streets will open for business at 9 a.m. as well.

Craft vendors offer unique gift-giving options such as wooden toys, jewelry, wrought iron, handcrafted candles, caps and original Christmas ornaments.

Food vendors will warm tummies and tickle tastebuds with delectable delights including hot chocolate, chili, roast beef sandwiches, chowders and soups, apple dumplings, crab cakes and soft pretzels, Christmas cookies, pies and fudge.

Both performers and vendors will be appropriately costumed to create a Victorian Christmas atmosphere.

The street will be closed to traffic, giving visitors the freedom to stroll the thoroughfares and enjoy the festivities.

Many visitors come in costume, mingling with “little match girls,” jugglers, Victorian ladies and gentlemen and perhaps even old Scrooge himself.

Dig that old top hat out of the attic, grab Gramma’s old wool shawl or the long black velvet skirt you once wore for celebrations – anything that suggests the Victorian days will do.

There also will be plenty of activities indoors, as craft shows are held at the senior center, the firemen’s annex and the United Methodist Church. VESTA’s holiday art show and sale will be at the Gmeiner Art Center and there’s an open house at the Tioga County Historical Museum.

Hamilton Gibson Productions will present its annual performance of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” at the Deane Center’s Warehouse and Black Box Theaters.

Other indoor activities include the:

Annual Dickens Model Train Show at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church;

Professional Dickens Portraiture at The Deane Center for Performing Arts; and

Open houses at the Green Free Library and Tussey-Mosher Funeral Home, both from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The United Methodist Church will have music and a place to sit and warm up from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The combined men’s and women’s chorus will hold a sing-along in front of the Arcadia Theatre at 3:40 p.m.

Train lovers should check into the Santa Express Train Excursion running all weekend, starting at 5 and 7 p.m. Friday; 1, 3, 5 and 7 p.m. Saturday, with more rides on Sunday.

Check the schedule at www.tiogacentral.com or call 570-724-0990.

Make reservations ahead of time as seats fill fast.

Bring a candle and join the Candlelight Walk for Peace from Packer Park at 5 p.m. Walkers will travel up Main Street to the Green for the annual community Christmas tree lighting ceremony at 5:30.

Parking will be available at several lots throughout town, and a shuttle will be operated continuously from the high school parking lot and the plaza on Route 6.

For a complete schedule, visit wellsboropa.com or call the chamber office at 570-724-1926.