Dickens of a Christmas returns for second outing
CHESTERTOWN — Fire breathers, trained fleas, magic lantern shows and Queen Victoria herself are all sights visitors can expect to see this weekend at the second Dickens of a Christmas festival.
Building off the success of last year’s festival, founders and organizers Kathleen King and Kay MacIntosh said there will be plenty of returning favorites from the previous iteration as well as plenty of new entertainment, all fitting in with the Victorian theme.
The bulk of events will be held Friday evening — which also is First Friday in Chestertown — and all day Saturday.
Starting Friday, the 200 block of High Street will be closed off for festival events. It will remain closed through 11 a.m. Sunday.
From 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. Friday, the 300 block of High Street will close for First Friday activities.
Throughout the evening, there will be performances beginning with “Songs and Stories by the Fire” with Jake Swaine, master storyteller and “weaving magical tales” at 6 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. in Fountain Park.
Then at 7 p.m. tiny fleas will be performing in Phydeaux’s Flying Flea Circus. For those concerned about the fleas feeling a chill Friday night, Phydeaux assured MacIntosh and King they will be equipped with tiny coats.
Then at 7:30 p.m., the Pyroxotic Fire Dances from Washington, D.C., return to Chestertown for an expanded performance this year with fire eaters and fire breathers.
Finally, the American Rogues will play by the fireside from 8 to 9 p.m.
MacIntosh said the band is known worldwide for its Celtic tunes.
During evening, visitors also can expect carolers and plenty of people dressed in Victorian garb strolling about.
There also will be horse-drawn carriages departing from the corner of Cross and Cannon streets from 5 to 8 p.m.
A two-person carriage costs $5 a ride, a six-person carriage costs $2 a ride and 10-person wagon rides are free with donations accepted. The carriage rides also will be offered from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.
Additionally, shops and galleries in town will remain open later than usual, until 8 p.m.
Then on Saturday, the festival features a full schedule of events, which King said is to provide guests with a feeling that are surprises around every corner.
A good place to start is the “Dickens Welcome Center” or as it is know to locals, The Bank located at 211 High St. There people can get more information on the festival’s offerings including a full schedule of events and tickets.
The American Rogues will play again Saturday, starting at 10 a.m. on the Main Stage at the corner of High Street and Lawyers Row. They also will play from 3 to 4:30 p.m. on the Main Stage.
King and MacIntosh said there are still tickets left for the Holiday Hour Tour. They can be purchased at the welcome center, along with a map of the tour. The house tour runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Throughout Saturday, there will be displays for people to drop in and see, such as the People Sweet Shop and Gingerbread House display open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Peoples Bank.
There also are free shows, like the Magic Lantern Show at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. at the Garfield Center for the Arts. The show takes viewers back in time to experience an 1890s “visual extravaganza” projected on a screen. King said such shows are what led to the development of the cinema.
Also at the Garfield, at 8 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday are performances of “Tiny Tim’s Christmas Carol” with local actors taking the stage to tell Tiny Tim’s version of events from Charles Dicken’s classic “A Christmas Carol.”
For those who want to get some shopping done, London Row — or the 200 block of High Street — will feature more than 20 vendors this year selling Victorian-themed gifts, King said.
Additionally, there will be more street performers, stilt-walkers, carriage rides and the return of the Wheelmen on their antique bicycles.
Saturday’s events will end with an offering of vintage Victorian punch recipes from 4:30 p.m. to midnight at the LTO bar in town.
There will be beers and bonfires from 6 to 9 p.m. at the foot of High Street. American Rogues will provide acoustic music from 7 to 8 p.m. and samples of microbrews will be available for purchase.
The festival comes to a close Sunday with the Run Like the Dickens 5K run and walk through Chestertown. Participants are encouraged to run the course or stroll through it in Victorian garb.
Registration opens at 7 a.m., but pre-registration is encouraged to get a T-shirt. The race begins at 8 a.m. at the welcome center on High Street.
Both King and MacIntosh thanked the community for embracing and supporting the festival.
MacIntosh praised the creative energy in Chestertown seen in the decoration of the Hebe Fountain as a Christmas tree this year.
She said King came up with the idea of turning the fountain into a tree.
“With the blessing of Chestertown’s Mayor and Council and the Chestertown Garden Club (which decorates the park in classic style for the holidays), Zane Car ter then led a group of creative tech talents that included Ed Minch, Rob Glebe and Jon Hanley to bring the concept to beautiful life,” MacIntosh said.
Others to thank for assembling the tree are Bill MacIntosh, Tom Lentell, Barbara Slocum and Ellen Hurst, Kay MacIntosh said.
For a full schedule or events, visit dickenschester town.org.
Visitors to last year’s Dickens of Christmas festival in Chestertown pose for photo with Django the monkey and handler Jerry Brown. The festival returns this weekend.
Pyroxotic dancer Tori Spooner is illuminated by fire during her dance during last year’s Dickens of a Christmas estival. This year’s event, from Dec. 7 to 9, will feature more fire dancers in addition to fire breathers and fire eaters.
From left, Larry Wiltbank and Phyllis Roberts work on decorating the Hebe Fountain as a Christmas tree Dec. 4 in preparation for the Dickens of a Christmas festival this weekend.