By Allan Varela
The very successful 25th celebration of Port Jefferson’s Charles Dickens Festival has come to a close for this year, with energetic plans already in the works for the 26th celebration in 2022. Sadly, one of the many bright spots of the event, Santa’s Workshop, will not be returning. The historic Phillips Roe House, aka the Drowned Meadow House located on the corner of Barnum Avenue and West Broadway, which has played host to the workshop all these years, is officially becoming a year-round museum.
For the last seven Charles Dickens Festivals, Santa Claus and his elves came to life through the tireless work of the acclaimed confection artist Pat Darling. The whimsical workshop has welcomed both the young and young at heart to step back in time and reflect on the storybook charm of cherished memories of an era that has quietly faded.
Snowflakes glistening high above the elaborate confection nutcrackers and giant turrets that have adorned the beautiful displays throughout the workshop area set the mood, while children were greeted by sugar trees and toy soldiers.
The wonderment continued into Hollyberry’s bedroom, an elaborate vignette that featured Hollyberry anticipating the night before Christmas as she busily wrapped presents. The nightscape background featured Santa in his sleigh high in the night sky, coming to visit the workshop.
And visit he did, as the third room presented the real live Santa in all his glory, sitting in a giant arched chair as he greeted families. Smiles and happiness are the legacy of this special exhibit.
Pat Darling has charmed literally thousands of people over the years with her creative vision, inspiring execution and attention to detail that made Santa’s Workshop such a very special happening for the Dickens Festival. The workshop will be sorely missed, but the community at large will be eternally grateful for Ms. Darling’s resolute efforts.
Allan Varela serves as chair for the Greater Port Jefferson-Northern Brookhaven Arts Council which hosts the Port Jefferson Charles Dickens Festival.