Dickens returns to Wellsboro this coming weekend

JOHN EATON/Sun-Gazette Correspondent
Barbara and Larry Biddison, of Wellsboro, left, are dressed in costumes they created to wear at Dickens. The couple host the annual Dickens of a Christmas costume workshop to teach people how to put together a Victorian-appearing costume by using items on hand or that can be procured easily and inexpensively.  
“It’s great fun to walk up and down Main Street, offer cheery greetings to strangers and see their smiles. It’s also fun when folks stop to inquire about my costume,” Larry said. “And it’s even more rewarding when someone asks if I wouldn’t mind posing for a  picture!”

JOHN EATON/Sun-Gazette Correspondent Barbara and Larry Biddison, of Wellsboro, left, are dressed in costumes they created to wear at Dickens. The couple host the annual Dickens of a Christmas costume workshop to teach people how to put together a Victorian-appearing costume by using items on hand or that can be procured easily and inexpensively. “It’s great fun to walk up and down Main Street, offer cheery greetings to strangers and see their smiles. It’s also fun when folks stop to inquire about my costume,” Larry said. “And it’s even more rewarding when someone asks if I wouldn’t mind posing for a picture!”

WELLSBORO — It’s “Dickens of a Christmas” time in Wellsboro. The boulevards are lined with Christmas trees decorated with lights and ornaments, and gaslights wearing evergreen wreaths and bows in readiness for the festival, which starts Friday and concludes next Sunday.

“Last year, Dickens day was unseasonably warm so people stayed out on the streets for a longer period of time, and our vendors did really well,” said Wellsboro Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Julie VanNess.

But the weather created a different kind of problem.

“We have a mix of both indoor and outdoor events so, ideally, we hope for temperatures in the mid-30s with no ice or rain. Our vendors and retailers do better when it’s a little cooler,” VanNess said.

Those who attend Dickens regularly — both visitors and vendors — have not been deterred by past weather-related problems, ranging from a power outage to blizzard conditions and, one year, torrential rains.

“This is an outdoor event in winter so you have to expect the worst and hope for the best. We’ve weathered it all,” VanNess said with a laugh.

From 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Wellsboro will revisit Victorian times. Closed to motorized traffic on Saturday only, Main, Crafton and Waln streets will be transformed into an early Victorian outdoor marketplace with more than 150 food and craft vendors offering delectable wares to eat and drink and colorful and skillfully crafted items to buy.

There are 17 new vendors this year. Among them is a woman from Pine City, New York, and another from Oley.

“One makes handblown glass ornaments and the other, woven baskets. Both do beautiful work,” said VanNess.

Also coming for the first time is a local man. “He creates really neat jewelry from recycled sterling silverware and other reclaimed materials,” she said.

The town crier will greet everyone with the ringing of his bell and announcements of the day. Street entertainers and vendors will be in Dickens wear.

Visitors are encouraged to dress Victorian style too. Those who do are invited to meet at the Deane Center’s outdoor stage to take part in the 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Victorian strolls led by Mr. and Mrs. Fezziwig and other characters from Charles Dickens’ novel “A Christmas Carol.”

“One of the truly wonderful and unique aspects of Dickens of a Christmas is the number of people who dress in Victorian clothing and walk the streets interacting with each other and the crowd,” VanNess said.

“We’re hoping more people will join in the festivities by becoming a Victorian character on Saturday,” she added. “The strolls and contest are opportunities for our community and visitors to enter into the spirit of Dickens Day.”

Anyone in Dickens’ apparel is invited to register at noon on Saturday at the Deane Center’s outdoor stage to participate in the first Best Dressed Contest. Judging will be at 1 p.m.

The winner will receive a gift basket and be invited to join the Fezziwigs in leading the 2 p.m. stroll.

Throughout the day, musicians, singers and dancers will perform, as will the Fezziwigs, who will host outdoor skits and a sing-along or two.

Restaurants and street vendors will tickle the tastebuds and warm tummies with hot mulled cider, flavored cocoa, chili, macaroni and cheese, homemade soups and chowders, bread pudding, gourmet cupcakes, Italian pastries, cheesesteaks, hot roast beef sandwiches, crab cakes, pork barbecue, fresh roasted peanuts, 18 flavors of pickles, hot cider and coffee, sausage sandwiches, whoopee pies, peanut brittle, kettle corn and apple dumplings.

Craft vendors will offer handcarved Christmas trees, hand-painted Christmas ornaments, handmade powder horns, pottery, furniture, jewelry, specialty candles, hats and scarves, pet treats, heirloom Santas, stuffed animals and dolls, quilted items, hand-turned wrought iron and wooden pieces and handcrafted leather bags. Fresh wreaths, garlands, swags, centerpieces and greens will be available.

At 5 p.m. Saturday, the Candlelight Walk for Peace will begin at Packer Park and, at 5:30 p.m., the Christmas tree lighting with caroling will be on The Green.

The Dickens Eve House Tour will be from 4-7 p.m. Friday only, with visits to four historic homes. For tickets and tour information, stop in at the check-in station in the Deane Center lobby between 3:30 and 6:30 p.m.

Creations made by more than 80 indoor craft and art vendors can be found at four locations. On Friday and Saturday, indoor craft shows will be at the United Methodist Church, which will have 27 vendors, and the Wellsboro Senior Center, which has nine.

The Vesta Art and Craft Show and Sale with 11 artisans will be at the Gmeiner Art and Cultural Center Friday through Sunday and continues through Jan. 29. The Wellsboro Firemen’s Annex craft show will be open on Saturday only with more than 35 vendors.

Local churches will host a variety of indoor events on Friday and Saturday. Among them is Dickens of a Dinner, Dickens of a Breakfast with Father Christmas, lunches, concerts, a model train display and a cookie sale.

Hamilton-Gibson will present “A Dickens of a Concert” Friday night and six performances of “A Christmas Carol” at the Deane Center’s two theaters on Saturday and a seventh on Sunday. The Arcadia Theatre is showing the holiday film classic “It’s A Wonderful Life” on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

For a finalized schedule and map of events, parking, ATMs and restroom facilities, visit www.wellsboropa.com, emailinfo@wellsboropa.com, call 570-724-1926 or stop in at the Wellsboro Area Chamber of Commerce office at 114 Main St.