Skaneateles, N.Y. – The magic of the holiday season returns with the 26th edition of Dickens Christmas.
Enchanting holiday shoppers as it brings “A Christmas Carol” to life, Skaneateles’ iconic street theater production opens Nov. 29 and runs weekends through Christmas. Hours are noon to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, with a limited show (noon to 2:30 p.m.) Dec. 24.
Suspend disbelief, for the year is 1842.
Queen Victoria has arrived in town with Charles Dickens, whom she has commissioned to write a Christmas story. During their monthlong stay, Dickens gains inspiration from a bevy of now-familiar characters, including Scrooge, Tiny Tim, the Spirit of Christmas Past and the Ghost of Jacob Marley, along with finishing school girls, pickpockets and other villagers. New to this year’s cast is Washington Irving, author of such tales as “Rip Van Winkle” and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” in town to welcome Dickens and the Queen.
Each week, the story unfolds 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, who plays Dickens. “For the past 26 years, we’ve had the opportunity to revel in the greater gift of simply caring for one another.”
Dickens Christmas draws more than 20,000 visitors each year. It is produced by Scarlett Rat Entertainment and presented by Howard Hanna Real Estate Services, the Skaneateles Area Chamber of Commerce Foundation and the Skaneateles-area business community.
Highlights of this year’s season include:
- World’s Smallest Christmas Parade. Nov. 29, 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.
- Trunk shows—lighthearted versions of Dickens’ new story, performed with help from the audience—12:30 p.m. at the gazebo and 3 p.m. at the library each day.
- Horse-drawn wagon and carriage rides around the village, departing from the Sherwood Inn, provided by Rt. 80 Quarry Ridge Stables. Wagon rides are $3; carriage rides are offered for a $20 donation.
- Magic shows, performed by the Very Peculiar Prestidigitating Packwoods, 1 p.m. Sundays at the Skaneateles Library.
- A snowman-building contest in Clift Park Dec. 21 (weather-permitting). Bring your own supplies and creativity! Queen Victoria will judge the entries at 2:45 p.m. First prize is a $50 gift certificate from the Sherwood Inn; second prize is a Dickens mug and cocoa.
- “It’s A Wonderful Life! The Radio Play,” presented at 7 p.m. Dec. 21 at Auburn Public Theater. Tickets are $10.
- Free refreshments, including roasted chestnuts donated by Tops Friendly Markets and Johnny Angel’s, figgy pudding, and Byrne Dairy eggnog served by the Girl Scouts (Saturdays only).
For children, Mother Goose will read holiday stories, 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—the perfect complement to a holiday outing,” says Hilary Fenner, executive director of the Skaneateles Area Chamber of Commerce. “And stop by the Chamber, at 22 Jordan St., for commemorative scarves ($15 with an embroidered logo, $10 without), mugs ($10 with cocoa, $8 without) and ornaments ($5).”
Behind the Scenes
Dickens Christmas has more than 60 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 producing director Jim Greene, of Dryden. “Every actor learns music and uses improvisational techniques to build his character and become part of the ensemble.”
Greene is assisted by:
• Maria DeMitchell, of Marcellus, who is artistic director and plays Queen Victoria
• Kristen Baskewicz, of Rochester, who is music director and plays Mrs. Fezziwig
• John Michael Decker, of Queensbury, who is associate director and plays Scrooge
• Brett Norsworthy, of Wolcott, who is production manager and plays undertaker Barry M. Deep
• Tracey Greene, of Dryden, who is costumer
• Kristin Palazzoli, of Fayetteville, who is associate costumer
Dickens Christmas is made possible by the sponsorship support of over 150 local businesses. This year’s presenting sponsor is Howard Hanna Real Estate Services.
The festival is further supported through ticket sales from a Dickens Raffle. Prizes are a $600 Stay & Dine gift certificate featuring Mirbeau Inn & Spa, a family membership to the Skaneateles YMCA and Community Center, a $500 gift certificate from Sherwood Inn & Appetites, $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 $25—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 11:30 a.m. to 3:40 p.m., are $3 per person each way, $10 per family (maximum of six people). Shuttle riders will receive a coupon for a free ornament from the Chamber.
For more information on Dickens Christmas, go to www.skaneateles.com, call (315) 685-0552, or follow the event on Facebook (Skaneateles Area Chamber of Commerce or Dickens Christmas in Skaneateles). For an opportunity to win prizes and be featured on these pages, use the hashtag #skandickens2019 when posting photos.
Photo by Kimberly Rossi
Group M Communications