Ebenezer Scrooge might be snapping “Bah! Humbug!” this weekend, but the rest of Port Jefferson is ushering in the holiday season at the 21st annual Charles Dickens Festival. Here, fictional characters like Scrooge, Bob Cratchit and Tiny Tim come alive in the streets and Christmas activities abound.
“Take a step back in time to enjoy the true spirit of the holiday season. This is our biggest weekend of the year,” says Port Jefferson Mayor Margot Garant. “It’s an event that really makes people feel good.”
WATCH A grand opening parade kicks off the Dickens Festival at 11 a.m. Saturday with a cast of Dickens characters marching down East Main Street before an 11:40 a.m. ceremony at the Village Center, where Garant passes off the key to the city to the Dickens-era mayor for the weekend.
In keeping with tradition, catch performances of Harbor Ballet Theatre’s “The Nutcracker” ($25, 3 and 8 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday) and/or Theatre Three’s “A Christmas Carol” ($35, 3 and 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday).
Both magic ($2, noon, 1:20 and 2:40 p.m.) and puppet (1:30, 2:30 and 3:30 p.m.) shows are held off Main Street through the weekend. Additionally on Sunday, there will be a giant puppet parade on Main Street at 5 p.m.
Train enthusiasts can admire the extensive train layout at Tiny Tim’s Train Station from noon to 5 p.m. Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday.
MAKE A Cake in Time of Mount Sinai oversees Cookieland, where children can decorate Christmas cookies ($15 kit for three cookies) or a full cookie house ($30) at the Harbormaster’s Building noon-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Craft fans can visit Mrs. Cratchit’s Colorful Christmas Crafts at the Village Center, where guests can make handmade ornaments ($3-$7) noon to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
EXPERIENCE Twinkling with lights in the historic Drowned Meadow House, Santa’s Workshop will charm the children who enter as Ol’ St. Nick greets them by name and poses for selfies noon-4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Dickens characters, ranging from newsies to chimney sweeps to pickpockets, have been coached by street character coordinator Karen Overin.
“I teach them how to talk in an English accent with proper etiquette and dress appropriately,” Overin says. “Each character has a back story. The more people know their characters and how they would act, the more real their portrayal becomes.”
Not only can guests interact with the characters, but they can witness a variety of their street performances throughout the weekend.
From noon to 4 p.m. both days, take a horse and carriage ride ($2 per person) around the village that makes a loop on Main Street, starting at the Island Christian Church.
Head up to the second floor of the Port Jefferson Visitor Center to walk through the Festival of Trees, where 14 designers have decorated trees with a theme, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday.
“It rivals anything Hollywood can do,” says Allan Varela, the event’s chairperson.
BUY Local village restaurants will be open and there’s on-the-go festival snacks that include roasted chestnuts ($7), hot pretzels ($5) or roasted marshmallows (free).
Purchase some homemade wares at the Oliver Twist’s Artisan Square craft fair, noon-5 p.m. Saturday and Noon to 4 p.m. Sunday, where people make goods out of leather, yarn and other materials on Main Street.
“The festival started as a holiday event to stimulate shopping in the village and now it has grown beyond, taking on a life of its own,” says Jill Russell from the Dickens Festival executive committee. “It’s become beloved.”