The Greater Port Jefferson-Northern Brookhaven Arts Council, in conjunction with the Village of Port Jefferson, will host the 20th Annual Charles Dickens Festival this weekend, Dec. 5 and 6, throughout the Village of Port Jefferson. The Village will magically transform into the Dickensian era, with streets filled with roaming characters such as Father Christmas, the Dickens Mayor, Scrooge, the Town Crier and the beloved chimney sweeps.
All events are open to the public and most attractions are free of charge. Begin your Dickens adventure with a Grand Opening Celebration Parade on East Main Street, Saturday morning at 11 a.m.
The festivities will feature many returning favorites, including ice skating at the Village Center, a cappella performances by choirs and harmony groups, Nutcracker performances, magic shows by The Great Wizard of the North, and many fine musical performances by area musicians. In addition, this year’s festival will feature Theatre Three’s 32nd annual production of “A Christmas Carol.”
Returning for its second year is the Festival of Trees, located on the second floor of the Port Jefferson Village Center. The festival was the brainchild of Jill Russell, who handles public relations for the Village. “I first saw it years ago in Oklahoma City, where I grew up. They [also] had something called Festival of Trees. It was almost like an international festival of trees. Different countries were represented,” said Russell in a recent phone interview.
Eighteen beautifully decorated trees will grace the second floor, decorated in various themes. New entries this year include the First United Methodist Church, Ace Hardware, the Fox and the Owl Inn, The Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce, Antique Costumes and Prop Rentals by Nan, Theatre Three and Olde Town Gardens, whose tree will feature a train.
Returning favorites include, among others, Jolie Powell Realty, Port Jefferson Rotary, Stony Brook Confucius Institute, Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, Bridgehampton National Bank, Danfords Hotel and Marina, Friends of the Port Jefferson Free Library, the Greater Port Jefferson-Northern Brookhaven Arts Council and Red Sled. In addition, top sponsors Empire National Bank and Maia Salon Spa and Wellness will also showcase a tree in the festival.
The trees were set up last weekend and the designers came in on Sunday and Monday to decorate. The event has really taken off. “We still get people asking ‘How do you get a tree?’ It is wildly popular,” said Russell. “It goes through the month of December, and it is so beautiful and people enjoy it so much because they come to ice skate, they come to see the trees — both things feed off of one other; they go look at the gallery exhibit. It just breathes a whole new life to the Village Center. With the ice rink and the Festival of Trees, it has been really incredible.”
“Already, in year two, it has become competitive — with not what you do to your tree but how you embellish the tree and the surrounding area and how you create a theme,” she laughed. “It’s been fun.”
New to the Dickens Festival this year will be an event titled Let There Be Light, a dazzling light show projected on Village Hall. Animated characters will appear in the front windows surrounded by swirling Christmas decorations, giant snowflakes and sparkly stars. The presentation will be available for viewing during the weekend from 6 to 7:30 p.m., on the half hour, for 15 minutes of dazzling fun and will be shown each weekend leading up to Christmas — weather permitting. The Harbormaster building will be transformed into Cookieland, where children can decorate their own holiday-oriented cookies and houses.
As in past years, East Main Street will become Dickens Alley, and Fezziwig’s Ball, featuring live music on traditional instruments led by a dance caller, will take place at the Masonic Lodge. An impressive model train display will be featured on the corner of East Main and Main on Dec. 5, from noon to 5 p.m. and Dec. 6, from noon to 4 p.m., while the Port Jefferson Free Library will feature new programming and the fabulous Dickens Cottage next to the main building.
Horse and carriage rides will thrill the young and young-at-heart, and the trolley will help transport visitors to various venues throughout the Village for the entire weekend. The Port Jeff Jitney bus will transport visitors to and from downtown, from the free parking areas found outside the Village.
This year’s honoree is Pat Darling Kiriluk, the creator of a holiday tradition and highlight of the festival — Santa’s Workshop, located at the corner of W. Broadway and Barnum Avenue. Join Santa and his elves and wind through three whimsically decorated rooms. Twinkling white lights, elaborate confection displays, and giant nutcrackers are just a few of the signature elements that bring the magic of Christmas to life. The workshop will be open weekends from 1 to 5 p.m. through Dec. 14.
The 20th Annual Dickens Festival will conclude with a Parade of Puppets and a ceremony at Village Hall on Sunday evening. For a complete schedule of events, visit www.pjdickens.com.