Festival a Tradition for Four Generations of a Rochester-Area Family Skaneateles, N.Y. - Brett Norsworthy, of Wolcott, N.Y., had become a real-life Scrooge. "If it hadn't been for my children, I never would have celebrated the holiday," he recalls. Then, in 2000, he, his wife, Fran, and their four daughters and son, Duke, became the Cratchit family in the cast of Dickens Christmas in Skaneateles. Life hasn't been the same since. "Now, I can't wait for Christmas each year," says Norsworthy, who has been playing Barry M. Deep, the local mortician, since his son outgrew the role of Tiny Tim. "It's not Christmas unless we're at Dickens." In 2006, Norsworthy's father-in-law, Clarence Emery, of Brockport, and his wife, Wendy, joined the cast, as Mr. and Mrs. Fezziwig. And finally, last year, Norsworthy's 1-year-old granddaughter, Madisyn Emery, became the youngest-ever cast member, playing the last child left at the orphanage before Christmas. "We have met and worked with so many wonderful and talented people over the years, many of whom have become close friends," says Norsworthy, who has never missed a rehearsal or a performance. "I can't imagine Christmas without this festival. This is our Christmas." Thousands of people who return year after year share the sentiment. Dickens Christmas opens its 19th season Nov. 23 with the World's Smallest Christmas Parade. Charles Dickens and his entourage will leave at noon from the old firehouse on Fennell Street and proceed east to Jordan and Genesee streets, arriving at the Sherwood House porch in time for the 12:10 p.m. grand opening. The festival is produced by Scarlett Rat Entertainment and presented by Mirbeau Inn & Spa and the Skaneateles-area business community. It runs over five weekends this year-from noon to 4 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday through Dec. 23, with a limited show (noon to 3 p.m.) Dec. 24. So, what brings these Victorian-era characters to a Finger Lakes village? The year is 1842, and Charles Dickens is working on his soon-to-be-written classic "A Christmas Carol." In need of inspiration, he journeys to Skaneateles accompanied by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. On the village streets, they encounter Scrooge, Tiny Tim, Jacob Marley, and the Ghosts of Christmas Past and Christmas Present, among other local denizens. Slowly but surely, the story takes shape. The festival is free and draws more than 20,000 visitors each year. Highlights include:
- The Revels Live-Christmas carol sing-along-2 p.m. every day at the Gazebo. Twelve groups form, each representing one of 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, 1:30 and 3:30 p.m. on the steps of the Masonic Temple.
- Horse-drawn wagon rides around the village, departing from the Sherwood Inn, provided by Route 80 Stables.
- Free refreshments, including roasted chestnuts donated by Tops Friendly Markets and Johnny Angel's and roasted outside Johnny Angel's, and Byrne Dairy eggnog served by the Girl Scouts.