With a bevy of activities to choose from during the holiday season, A Dickens Holiday is a must. From 1-9 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 24, downtown Fayetteville takes a step back in time, transforming Hay Street into a Dickensian-era wonderland. Scrooge, Jacob Marley and other characters from “A Christmas Carol” come to life and roam the streets, engaging visitors and reenacting scenes from the well-loved story. It’s like a scene from a storybook as horse-drawn carriages roll past merchant windows decked out for the holidays. Artisans and vendors selling everything from decorations to warm cider fill Hay Street with the sights and sounds of Christmas. As the sun sets, everyone gathers at the Arts Council for a candlelight procession to the Market House. Fireworks and continued festivities follow with the fun until the night concludes at 9 p.m.
Tammy Rice is the interim marketing director at the Arts Council Fayetteville/Cumberland County. “I’ve been coming to Dickens since 2003,” she said. “I have participated since 2012. I was the person who contracted performers and artists. I had the easy part. In this position, I am also trying to make sure the world knows about Dickens.”
And, like in years past, there will be plenty of performers throughout the event. There will be old favorites, and a few new things as well. “We have Highland Brass, the Coventry Carolers, John Tudor with Tudor Magic and juggler Tain Collins – he had a big crowd last year, and we are thrilled he is coming,” Rice said. “We will have ‘Christmas Carol’ characters roaming the streets, too.”
A new item this year that Rice is excited about includes a special kind of vendor. “We have a special food vendor this year – a food truck actually – Mcdermott’s Irish Pub. The trailer itself looks Victorian; it was an obvious choice. There will be pub fare that people can enjoy. It will be parked outside the Arts Council.”
She added that “Every year we try to do a make-and-take. This year it is fascinators (what women would wear instead of a hat because during that time they wore head coverings – they often include things like feathers and other fun items) and boutonnieres. It is a free experience. That is from 1-7 p.m. at the rainbow room.”
The list of activities and things to do at A Dickens Holiday is a long one. Attendees are invited to dress in period costumes.
Visit Annie’s Alehouse inside the Arts Council. Modeled after Victorian pubs, the alehouse offers entertainment, featuring music by Brynmor, and provides beverages like beer, wine and nonalcoholic cider. The pub is open from 1-9 p.m. While you are there, enjoy the “Reclaimed” exhibit hanging on the gallery walls. “What is new at the alehouse is we have a selection of seasonal craft beers this year,” Rice said. “We also have live performances from 1-5 p.m. Then from 6:30-9 p.m. we have Brynmor. They are a Celtic rock band. We had then here a couple years ago, and everyone loved them.”
Gingerbread houses were brought to America in the early 1800s by German bakers. Now they are a staple for many during the Christmas season. Don’t miss the Gingerbread Community of Hope on display at SkyView. Fayetteville Area Habitat for Humanity and H&H Homes have come together to present this gingerbread community created by Fayettevillians.
Carriage rides through town are a charming way to take in the sights and sounds of the festivities. There are two choices. The Dickens Carriage Rides offer a ride in a decorated horse-drawn hitch wagon. They cost $10 for adults and $5 for children. Purchase tickets starting at noon the day of the event at 222 Hay St. Rides run from 1-9 p.m. The Queen Victoria carriage rides offer a more personal ride – and a longer one, too. These depart from the Fayetteville Area Transportation and Local History Museum. Tickets cost $15 per person. Call (910) 678-8899 to make a reservation. The Victorian carriage rides also run from 1-9 p.m.
The second story of the Market House is open during A Dickens Holiday and features an exhibit called “This Victorian Life.” Test your knowledge of the Victorian Era and try to identify household items from the past. The exhibit also displays literature from the time period, a Victorian Christmas tree and other holiday-related artifacts as well as military items.
From 1 p.m. until dusk, Fascinate-U Children’s Museum invites youngsters to create a Victorian ornament. Hang it on the community tree or take it home. It costs $2 per child and $1 per adult.
At 4 p.m., in the Hay Street United Methodist Church sanctuary, enjoy a performance of Tuba Christmas.
The 1897 Poe House is decked out in traditional Victorian-era holiday decorations. At 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. the public is invited for a free tour of the historic home.
The biggest spectacle and most anticipated part of the day is the candlelight procession. Throughout the day, merchants and the Arts Council give out candles for the procession. At about 5 p.m. everyone is invited to gather at the Arts Council. At 5:30 p.m., the procession to the Market House begins.
“It is a magical experience because downtown Fayetteville is transformed into a scene out of Victorian England,” Rice said. “Many of our vendors dress in costume, going so far as to make their booths look like a stall in the streets of Victorian England. The candlelight procession is the culminating experience. To watch all these people of all ages and to know the first candle is lit and the flame is passed from person to person, spreading the light. It is metaphorical for what we hope to bring to the city. It is just a moving experience. And the tree-lighting ceremony is just one of those things where everyone is gathered together in good cheer. It’s a moment of lightness.”
A fireworks display follows the procession and tree lighting, but the night is still young, and attendees are invited to stay until 9 p.m. and enjoy the festivities.
Call the Arts Council at (910) 323-1776 to learn more.