Skaneateles, N.Y. -- There will be music in the streets (piped in via speakers), gaily decorated storefronts—but alas, no live Dickens Christmas in Skaneateles. In this daunting age of COVID, Dickens, Scrooge and their fellow merrymakers will be depicted in the village by their cutout surrogates, while the real characters continue to entertain us from a safe distance online.
“It is with great love and much contemplation that, due to the great plague that is upon us, we have chosen the safety of the community over all else,” says Jim Greene, who plays Charles Dickens. “We are thrilled to be able to share our joyous holiday fun with you, all and every one of you, through the magic of Instagram and Facebook.”
Dickens Christmas, normally a street theater production that draws some 20,000 visitors, is produced by Scarlett Rat Entertainment, headed by Greene, and presented by the Skaneateles Area Chamber of Commerce Foundation and Skaneateles-area businesses.
“Even though characters won’t be walking the streets this year, there will still be plenty of holiday cheer,” says Hilary Fenner, executive director of the Skaneateles Area Chamber of Commerce. Old favorites remain, while new ones will be introduced.
Festivities from afar begin Bright Friday (Skaneateles’ version of Black Friday) and continue through Christmas at https://www.facebook.com/skaneateleschamber and https://www.facebook.com/DickensChristmasSkaneateles. Dickens will present synopses of chapters from his new novella; the Very Peculiar Prestidigitating Packwoods will perform magic tricks; Father Christmas will read “The Night Before Christmas” and Mother Goose will read children’s stories; caroling and musical performances will prevail. In Shopkeeper’s Showcase, Dickens, Scrooge and Queen Victoria will visit shops and highlight select merchandise (which can be purchased online).
Although Father Christmas can’t entertain children in person, he invites them to drop off or mail their wish lists to him at the Skaneateles Chamber, 22 Jordan St., Skaneateles, NY 13152. All letters will receive a reply, direct from the North Pole.
Also going distant this year is the snowman building contest. Build and decorate your snowman from home and submit photos to firstname.lastname@example.org. Winners will be chosen Dec. 19.
If you’re in downtown Skaneateles, look for the Dickens cutout characters in and outside shops: Snap a selfie (or photo) with one and take it to the Chamber to receive a free ornament. Selfies taken with the Scrooge character will get you a Scrooge certificate.
But don’t expect the “real” Scrooge to be impressed. “Bah! Be it a distant Dickens Christmas or up close and personal, it’s all a humbug to me!” he says.
When shopping, be sure to pick up a Dickens Passport. From Nov. 27 through Dec. 20, purchases at participating shops and restaurants will earn you a sticker. (Minimum purchase amounts may apply.) Then, stop by the Chamber to trade them in: Four will get you a Dickens raffle ticket; six will get you two raffle tickets; eight will get you three. Participating venues have donated prizes, including an experience at Mirbeau Inn & Spa; restaurant gift cards to the Sherwood Inn, Gilda’s and Bluewater Grill; and a gift basket from downtown merchants. Raffle tickets can also be purchased at the Chamber. Prize drawings will be held Dec. 20.
On weekends, stop by shops with chestnut signs in their window to receive a free bag of chestnuts to take home and roast. Learn the perfect roasting technique from a Dickens video.
Shop, Sip and Stroll has been extended to four days: Dec. 3, 10, 17 and 20. Those making a purchase on Dec. 3, 10 or 17 will receive a coupon for a free drink at the Sherwood Inn, Bluewater Grill, Gilda’s and other establishments or 15 percent off at the Village Bottle Shop. On Dec. 20, shoppers making a purchase will receive a coupon for coffee, tea or hot chocolate from the Skaneateles Bakery, Good Eats & Sips or Vermont Green Mountain Specialty Co.
This year’s presenting sponsor is Howard Hanna Real Estate Services. Other major sponsors are the Skaneateles Bakery and DROOZ.
Commemorative masks ($8), scarves ($15 with an embroidered logo, $10 without) and ornaments ($5) are on sale at the Chamber and online at www.skaneateles.com/gift-shop. A dollar from the sale of each mask will be donated to the Skaneateles Ecumenical Food Pantry.
Masks are required in all shops, in restaurants until patrons are seated, and outdoors when visitors can’t social distance.
Paid parking is available in the municipal lot between Jordan and State streets. Free parking is available in the town lot at 75 Fennell St.; the town lot at 20 Fennell St. (behind the Post Office); the Austin Park Pavilion, 1 E. Austin St.; and the Skaneateles High School overflow gravel lot, 49 E. Elizabeth St.
And if you're still missing the experience of years past: Dickens Christmas in Skaneateles will be featured on “Small Town Big Deal” at 5 p.m. Nov. 26, and 6 a.m. Dec. 25, on WTVH CBS 5; the show also can be viewed at www.smalltownbigdeal.com.
“We look forward to seeing everyone again in 2021,” Fenner says.
Contact: Sandi Mulconry
Group M Communications