12 01 COACHMANS ASSISTANT MIKE 2One of Fayetteville’s most beloved festivals turns 20 this year. It’s a heartfelt tradition that ushers in the holiday season in the best possible way — as a celebration of community and good will to all its citizens. The day after Thanksgiving, downtown Fayetteville transforms into a Victorian-era village complete with street urchins selling flowers and mistletoe, wandering carolers, carriage rides, hot apple cider, gingerbread and more as the greater Fayetteville area comes together for A Dickens Holiday. The fun starts at 1 p.m. and runs until 9 p.m. with activities designed to enchant and engage all ages.

The festival has grown a lot since its inception. So much so that the Arts Council of Fayetteville/Cumberland County wants to make sure no one misses a thing. Download the A Dickens Holiday app to ensure you capture the magic that will be afoot in every corner of downtown.  The Arts Council rolled out an app for the International Folk Festival earlier this year with great success. “I love it because the night before, you can plan what time you are going out and what you want to do,” said Metoya Scott, Arts Council public relations manager.  “We will have our vendors on it and  pop up notifications, too. I thoroughly enjoy the apps. I always feel like at a festival I am going to miss something.”
Don your top hat and bonnet and join fellow attendees in celebrating the occasion. “It’s not required, but it’s a lot of fun,” said Hank Parfitt, a volunteer planning committee member. “If you want to look Victorian, you can do it very inexpensively and you don’t have to be  a seamstress. There is a guide on the Arts council website, too. Let’s say you don’t have time to use a glue gun and put stuff together, you can just put on a top hat. That is what we call the instant Victorian costume.”

And you won’t be alone. The streets will be abuzz with seasonal characters ready to entertain and engage the crowd. Father Christmas will be on hand and at-the-ready for photo opportunities. Characters from Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” will roam the streets performing and interacting with festivalgoers. So, don’t be alarmed if you bump into Ebenezer Scrooge, the ghost of Jacob Marley or Tiny Tim. Carolers will stroll the streets, entertaining onlookers with seasonal songs. Look for youngsters dressed as street urchins dashing about selling flowers and bags of mistletoe. Queen Victoria is set to make an appearance as well.

12 02 035Stroll downtown Fayetteville and enjoy the many vendors and artisans selling their wares. Or stop in and explore the shops that will be open for the event. Many local eateries will have special express menus as well, so customers won’t have to sit and wait for a table, Parfitt said.

 Carriage rides are a perennial favorite at the festival and for good reason. “There are two types of carriage rides,” said Parfitt. “Ye Olde Fayetteville Carriage Rides take place on what is called a hitch wagon. It carries up to 14 people, and it is a fun ride that lasts for just under 15 minutes going around downtown. You go right by the shops and there is the smell of cider and gingerbread in the air.”

To give everyone a fair shot at a spot, the ticket sales for Ye Olde Carriage rides are same day. The office opens at noon at 222 Hay St. It costs $10 for adults and $5 for children 10 and under, but between 1-2 p.m., adults are also $5 for this early bird special.

 The Queen Victoria carriage rides are more elegant and are in a white Cinderella carriage. It is a 20-minute ride. “If you choose, you can ride with another couple,” said Parfitt. “It will carry up to six, if two of them are children. We also offer the option of private carriage rides.”

Call City Center Gallery and books at 910-678-8899 to reserve tickets in advance for the Queen Victoria rides. Tickets are $15 for adult and $10 per child 10 and under. “For a couple, that’s just $30,” Parfitt said. “For $30 more, you can make it a private carriage and have it all to yourself. Over two-thirds of the people who make reservations make it a private tour.”

The Gingerbread Community of Hope, sponsored by Fayetteville Area Habitat for Humanity and H&H Homes has become a much-anticipated part of the day. People from the community create buildings made out of gingerbread. Together they form a community, which is on display throughout the day. Stop by between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. and cast your vote for your favorite. There is a People’s Choice Award prize of $250 in it for the winner. The deadline to enter is Nov. 22. There is no cost to enter and it is not a juried competition. Call Habitat for Humanity at 910-483-0952 for details or to enter.

Have your picture taken in a winter wonderland, compliments of PWC, Fayetteville’s hometown utility. “We will have a life-sized snow globe,” said Scott. “You can get inside it for pictures.”

Don’t forget to stop by the Fayetteville Area Transportation and Local History Museum and pick up everything you will need for an exciting scavenger hunt to make the experience complete.

Stop in at Annie’s Alehouse and quench your thirst. Modeled after old Victorian pubs, Annies’ offers visitors beer, wine and non-alcoholic beverages along with rousing entertainment and holiday music. The building is open from 1 to 9 p.m.

For many, the candlelight procession is one of the most impactful parts of the event. The procession starts at 5:30 p.m. and goes down Hay Street to the Market House. “There is some speechifying,” said Parfitt. “The mayor and chairperson of county commissioners welcome everyone and wish them a happy Dicken’s holiday. They light the tree, the bell rings in the market house and the fireworks start. The fireworks are not the end of the evening, but the beginning of Dicken’s After Dark.”

Pick up a candle at one of the many shops that will be handing them out, or in front of the Arts Council, and join the gathering on Hay Street.

 “You know the feeling you have when Scrooge throws open the window, and he is so excited about being alive and has great love for his fellow man?” Parfitt asked. “That is what it is like here. That is what makes A Dicken’s Holiday so special. Even with crowd of 15,000 you don’t feel crowded.

“This is an alternative to getting up early and going shopping. It is a kinder gentler way of welcoming the holiday season and people love that. You can still shop and find unique gifts. It is fun to shop in the shops downtown. They are one-of-a-kind mom-and-pop shops, and there is nothing like it.”

Find out more about A Dickens Holiday at https://www.theartscouncil.com/feature/dickens-holiday.
 

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