The event kicks off at 1 p.m. and runs until 9 p.m. and will feature such holiday faves as roving carolers, horse drawn carriage rides, hot cider, bright lights and decorations, and, of course, business owners and volunteers dressed as Victorian period characters, many of them straight out of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.
“I think it will be our biggest celebration ever,” said Margo Jarvis, spokesperson for the Arts Council of Fayetteville/Cumberland County, which presents the Dickens Holiday in collaboration with the Fayetteville Downtown Alliance. “Last year we had more than 10,000 people and I expect even more to show up this year. The event gets bigger every year as the renaissance of downtown Fayetteville continues.”
In addition to most of the downtown businesses being made up for the holidays, Jarvis said revelers can look forward to 19 arts and crafts vendors as well as seven food vendors and copious entertainment, including the Salvation Army band and the Highland Brass Ensemble. There will also be the traditional lighting of the Christmas decorations by a child selected randomly from the audience, as well as fireworks.
And there’s something new this year — $500 in cash prizes for the winners of the Victorian costume contest, which starts at 7 p.m. in the Metropolitan Room. Entry fee is $10 for advance registration, $15 at the door. Here’s some guidelines for dressing like the Dickens: Look in thrift shops/resale shops/ yard sales for old, wide brimmed dress hats. Trim with flowers, feathers, ribbon, netting, lace, etc. Bonnets were popular also. Check with relatives, they may have an old bonnet in their attic. You can make a mobcap (maid’s cap) by cutting an 18-inch circle from cotton material. Thread a large needle with narrow ribbon (or you can use narrow rope elastic) and use a running stitch 3 inches from the cut edge all the way around. After you have gone all around the circle make sure both the ribbon ends come out the same side. Glue lace around the edge. You will set it on your head, pull the ribbon (rope elastic) to fit and tie the ends into a bow. Tuck the bow under the cap. Pin cap to hair to keep in place. Ladies always wore their hair up, the only time they let it down was for bed.
If you don’t feel like dressing the part, you can always shop the night away. Patrons of the downtown shops will receive a free candle, which will come in handy as darkness approaches and the clock reaches 5 p.m. and townspeople gather in front of the Arts Council for the candlelight procession which begins at 5:30 p.m. The crowd will follow a carriage to the Market House for the lighting of the Holiday Tree and the illumination of Olde Fayetteville. The fireworks display will follow.
“It really is a reflection of what’s going on downtown,” said Hank Parfitt of the Fayetteville Downtown Alliance. “So many of the shops there were built during the Victorian era and have been renovated and restored and really represent that time period well.”
While the Dickens Holiday itself is free, there is a charge for carriage and wagon rides. For $15, you can ride aboard Queen Victoria’s Carriage. It departs from the transportation museum at 1 p.m. and reservations may be made in advance by calling 678-8899. Or, for $10, you can hitch a ride on Ye Olde Hitch Wagon; tickets go on sale at 222 Hay St. at noon — no advance reservations for this one.
There will also ne a sneak preview of the Gilbert Theatre’s performance of A Christmas Carol at the Metropolitan Room.