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HOLIDAYS

What to expect from returning Dickens Christmas in Skaneateles

Black Friday will be Bright Friday once again, as Dickens Christmas will return to the village of Skaneateles this holiday season.

All the Christmas magic of the street theater production will be back for its 28th year after it was simplified in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“After a year’s absence, we are elated to be returning to Skaneateles,” says producing director Jim Greene, who plays Charles Dickens, in a news release.

“Her Majesty and I look forward to sharing our holiday warmth with old and new friends alike. God bless us, every one!”

After beginning with Bright Friday from noon to 4 p.m. Friday, Nov. 26, Dickens Christmas will continue for those hours Saturdays and Sundays through Dec. 19. It will conclude with a limited show from noon to 2:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 24. The production brings about 20,000 people to the village of Skaneateles every holiday season.

Over the course of the holiday season, Dickens Christmas sees its namesake inspired by several familiar characters to write a Christmas story that has been commissioned by Queen Victoria. They, along with Washington Irving, Ebenezer Scrooge, Father Christmas and more can be encountered on the streets of the 1842 setting. 

Dickens Christmas 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. Due to the event's popularity, the chamber recommends that guests wear masks while indoors. All other relevant COVID-19 guidelines will be followed.

Greene is joined in Scarlett Rat by a cast of about 40, as well as guest musicians and caroling groups. Assistants include: Maria DeMitchell, of Marcellus (artistic director, Queen Victoria); Victoria King, of Syracuse, (music director, Lady Mariah); Patrick Glaub, of Hazel Park, Michigan (assistant to King, Washington Irving); John Michael Decker, of Queensbury (associate director, Ebenezer Scrooge); Brett Norsworthy, of Wolcott (production manager, undertaker Barry M. Deep); Tracey Greene, of Dryden, (head costumer); and Kristin Palazzoli, of Fayetteville, (associate costumer). All cast members are fully vaccinated. 

“We pack a lot in and streamline the process of building a character,” Greene said. “Every actor learns music and uses improvisational techniques to build their character and become part of the ensemble.”

Highlights of this year's Dickens Christmas include:

• Noon Friday, Nov. 26: World's Smallest Christmas Parade from the Skaneateles Village Hall on Fennell Street east to Jordan and Genesee streets, and arriving at the Hannum House porch for the 12:10 p.m. grand opening

• 2 p.m. every day: "Midday Revels" Christmas carol sing-alongs. Twelve groups, representing the 12 days of Christmas, vie for attention and Queen Victoria awards a silver teasel to the most spirited performer. 

• 1 p.m. every day: "A Christmas Carol" trunk shows with Dickens performing lighthearted versions of his story with help from the audience

• Horse-drawn wagon and carriage rides around the village, departing from the Sherwood Inn, provided by Route 80 Quarry Ridge Stables. Wagon rides cost $3 per person or $10 per family; carriage rides cost a $50 donation.

• Performances by the Bright Friday Brass on Nov. 26 and every Saturday.

• Saturday, Dec. 18: A snowman-building contest in Clift Park, weather permitting. Queen Victoria will judge entries at 2:45 p.m., and first prize is a $50 gift certificate to the Sherwood Inn. Second prize is a Dickens mug with cocoa.

• 7 to 9 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 18: "A Christmas Carol: The Radio Play" at the West End Theater, 217 Genesee St., Auburn. The performance will be available the next day on YouTube. For ticket information, visit skaneateles.com.

• Free refreshments, including roasted chestnuts donated by Tops Friendly Markets and Johnny Angel’s Heavenly Burgers, and Byrne Dairy eggnog served by the Girl Scouts (Saturdays only).

• Treats handed out to children by Father Christmas from the porch of the Masonic Temple.

• Mother Goose reading stories at Loft 42.

Dickens Christmas is also supported by sponsorship from more than 130 local businesses, as well as a Dickens Raffle with a first prize of a $750 Mirbeau gift package. Other prizes include a one-year family membership to the Skaneateles YMCA & Community Center, a shop-and-dine package and a Skaneateles gift basket. Tickets are $5 each, $10 for three or $25 for 10, and are on sale at the chamber 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 and 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 from 11:30 a.m. to 3:40 p.m., are $3 per person each way or $10 per family (maximum six people). Shuttle riders will receive a coupon for a free ornament from the chamber.

For more information about Dickens Christmas, visit skaneateles.com, call (315) 685-0552 or follow @SkaneatelesChamber or @DickensChristmasSkaneateleson on Facebook.

Sandi Mulconry is founder and principal of Group M Communications, a public relations group in Skaneateles. For more information, visit skaneateles.com.

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