The day after Thanksgiving is a special time in Downtown Fayetteville. It is a celebration of history, tradition and goodwill; it is A Dickens Holiday. Come for a visit and travel back in time to the Victorian era. With the lively atmosphere, characters in costume and period decorations, it’s easy to get lost in the old-time traditions and activities of the day. Every year the Downtown Alliance and the Arts Council Fayetteville/Cumberland County team up to deliver what is intended to be Downtown Fayetteville’s kick-off to the holiday season. The fun starts at 1 p.m. and runs until 9 p.m.
“There are so many favorite events that people have come to expect each year,” said Mary Kinny Arts Council Fayetteville/Cumberland County marketing director. “It is a lot fun but also a day where people can learn new things. We want people to come and learn about the Victorian era, to learn about how they dressed, to hear music they’ve not heard before.”
This year, the Arts Council invites photographers to bring their cameras and participate in an entirely new event: The Art’s Council’s A Dickens Holiday Photography Contest. It is free to participate and there are cash prizes for the winners as well as an opportunity to have works used in promotional materials for future events. Photographers can submit up to 10 images.
“We have so many talented photographers in this community and we are always looking for new ways for artists to participate in events,” said Kinney. “We want them to have a chance to participate and bring their unique perspective to this event.”
Visit the Arts Council website to enter.
Bringing characters from the past to life is an important element to the Dickens Holiday celebration. Characters from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol roam the streets while other Victorian-era characters such as the Coventry Carolers mingle with the crowd as well, performing throughout the day.
“We do plan to include historical tributes that include other characters, too,” said Kinney. “Of course, Queen Victoria will be there as well as other historical figures who lived during Victorian times.”
Adding a special twist to the event is New York Times best-selling author Charlie Lovett. With his new book The Further Adventures of Ebenezer Scrooge hot off the presses, Lovett tells the story of Scrooge 20 years after A Christmas Carol. Don’t miss the book signings and dramatic readings at 3, 4 and 7 p.m. at the Rainbow Room on Hay Street.
Vendors selling their wares offer up spiced cider and confections that were likely sampled in Queen Victoria’s court. Others offer items common to the 1800s including jewelry and other artistic pieces. Stores will be open for shoppers to experience the best that downtown has to offer.
In the 1800s, the Fisk Jubilee Singers shared “slave songs” with the world. They performed for royalty in Europe sharing the music of a culture the kings and queens had never experienced before. During Fayetteville’s A Dickens Holiday, Arts Council Board Member Rangel McLaurin leads local singers in a musical tribute to the Fisk Jubilee Singers.
Visit Annie’s Ale House, a Victorian Pub. Enjoy a beer, wine or nonalcoholic cider and experience traditional period pub music. It is located inside the Arts Council and is open from 1-9 p.m.
SkyView hosts this year’s Gingerbread Community of Hope Competition. The project is a joint effort between Fayetteville Area Habitat for Humanity and H&H Homes. The Community of Hope is made by community members and offers a unique perspective on what a community can be. The deadline to enter a gingerbread structure is Nov. 20. Applications are available that the Habitat for Humanity Restore. Find out more by calling 920-4657.
Pictures with Santa are a fun holiday tradition for many families. A Dickens Holiday adds a twist to that long-held event. Look for Father Christmas in his authentic Victorian sleigh in front of the Arts Council throughout the day. Prints are $6 or $15 for three.
See downtown from a new perspective with Dickens Carriage Rides that feature a horse-drawn tour of downtown. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children. Tickets go on sale at noon at 222 Hay Street and sell out fast.
The Queen Victoria Carriage Rides offer a longer tour and leave from the Fayetteville Area Transportation and Local History Museum. Tickets cost $15 for adults and $10 for children. Tickets are available now by calling 678-8899.
The second floor of the Market House opens from 1-9 p.m. with an exhibit featuring what life was like in Fayetteville during the Victorian era. Visitors will find literature, military items and even a Victorian Christmas tree. The display is interactive and includes some common household items from the 1800s that many people may not recognize.
Fascinate-U Children’s Museum is open from
1 p.m. to dusk. Guests can make a Victorian ornament. Children can take their creations home or donate them to hang on the community tree. Find out more at www.fascinate-u.com.
Don’t miss Tuba Christmas at Hay Street United Methodist Church at 4 p.m. The concert takes place in the church sanctuary.
Gilbert Theater debuts It’s a Wonderful Life at 8 p.m. For tickets and information, visit Gilbertheater.com
The Museum of the Cape Fear’s Poe House is decked out for the holidays and is open from 10 a.m. to
4 p.m. Tours are free and offer an in-depth look into what Christmas was like in Fayetteville during the Victorian era. Call 486-1330 for information.
An event like no other in town, the Candlelight Procession kicks off at the Arts Council at 5:30 p.m. Bring a candle (available at local merchants as well as the Arts Council — while supplies last) and join the crowd on an evening march from the Arts Council to the Market House.
“This is my favorite part of A Dickens Holiday,” said Kinney. “The procession isn’t until 5:30 p.m. but people start gathering at the Arts Council building as early as 3 p.m. sometimes. To see the excitement building as they wait, anticipating the procession is really something. Then to see the thousands of people come together to make their way to the Market House is so heartwarming. One of the greatest things about Fayetteville and this community is the way people enjoy coming together with total strangers who immediately become friends. There is a sense that we are one community — one group of people — yet we are from all over the world and from all walks of life – so diverse and unified all at once.
After the procession, fireworks light up the Market House and Dickens After Dark begins. Immediately following the fireworks, Dr. Gail Morfesis and The Woman’s Club of Fayetteville will present a 15-minute excerpt from their production A Christmas Carol Revisited. This is a brief preview of the full-length production at the Woman’s Club on Nov.28 and 29. Find out more by calling 624-2651.
Find out more about A Dickens Holiday at www.theartscouncil.com or by calling 323-1776. Find out about the Downtown Alliance at www.visitdowntownfayetteville.com. Photos courtesy of Wick Smith.