TODAY'S PAPER
Good Morning
Good Morning
LifestyleHolidaysWinter Holidays

5 ways to enjoy the return of the Dickens Festival in Port Jefferson

A village holiday tradition kicked off again as

A village holiday tradition kicked off again as the annual Dickens Festival in Port Jefferson began on Saturday. Newsday's Steve Langford reports.  Credit: Newsday / Steve Pfost

Ready to have a Dickens of a good time again strolling the Port Jefferson harborfront? The Charles Dickens Festival returns on Dec. 4 and 5 with 129 events including magic, train and craft shows and a ghostly puppet parade saluting the life and works of the celebrated Victorian author.

"Everybody wants to get back to normal, and this is a giant, happy celebration that people are ready to come on out and enjoy," says Allan Varela, festival producer and chair of the Greater Port Jefferson-Northern Brookhaven Arts Council.

"Post-pandemic, it was imperative to reinstate our beloved Charles Dickens Festival," says Mayor Margot Garant, whose mother, former mayor Jeanne Garant, created the festival, now in its 25th year. Garant says village streets will be decorated with ribbons and garlands, restaurants will be serving holiday menus and carolers will be roaming the streets on festival days.

With downtown parking expected to be scarce, a free jitney will be running in a loop service all day making stops at the Port Jefferson Long Island Rail Road station and downtown, Varela says. He adds festivalgoers are encouraged to wear masks at indoor activities.

Here are five activities to satisfy your great Dickens fest expectations.

Tiny Tim’s Train Station, noon to 5 p.m., Saturday and noon to 4 p.m., Sunday, Harbor Masters Building, West Broadway

The colorful, multilayered exhibition by the Port Jefferson Station-based Reed Family Train Project is back on track after the death in March of Marie Reed, of cancer at age 57, says her husband, Charles Reed.

Reed decided to continue in his wife’s memory with the elaborately decorated tables of O- and HO-gauge model trains, including "the biggest display, which looks like a wedding cake, with trains going in three different directions." Younger railroad buffs can marvel at The Polar Express, Snoopy’s Christmas and NASCAR themed layouts, says Reed, who is assisted by his son, William and local Boy Scouts.

Artisan Square Crafters, noon to 4 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, Farmer’s Market lot.

The pandemic seems to have lit a creative fire under Lisa Seckler-Roode of Mount Sinai, a weaver and the organizer of this annual showcase of 19th-century artisanship.

"I spent the entire pandemic knitting in my house, and I have 46 hat and scarf sets that I’m going to be selling," Seckler-Roode says.

Seckler-Roode adds that with a Victorian-style hat-maker also on hand, festivalgoers will see "how clothing was made during the Dickensian era."

Festival of Trees, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Sunday, and continuing through Jan. 2, Port Jefferson Village Center, 101 E. Broadway.

A sparkling panorama of 25 six-and-a-half-foot tall artificial trees adorned with white lights will be decorated by local merchants and nonprofits with traditional ornaments, seashells, gingerbread, sunflowers and more, says Barbara Ransome of the Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce.

"They are very clever," Ransome says of themes such as "Gnome for the Holidays" with gnome figurines surrounding the tree.

"A Christmas Carol" and Street Characters

The heartwarming Christmas classic can be seen on the street or inside a theater, with either a hand-operated or real live Tiny Tim.

Theatre Three returns to the boards (after last year’s virtual show) with a staged production starring a puppet Tiny Tim and executive artistic director Jeffrey Sanzel’s 1,450th (and counting) appearance as the miserly Scrooge. (412 Main St., Port Jefferson, 631-928-9100, For tickets: theatrethree.com)

If you want your Dickens short and al fresco, a troupe of 115 locals costumed as flower girls, chimney sweeps and other street characters, are performing 10- to 15-minute street plays of "Oliver Twist," "The Pickwick Papers," "Bleak House" and "A Christmas Carol" — the latter with a local five-year-old boy playing Tiny Tim. Troupe members will also be caroling downtown.

"We do a version of ‘O Christmas Tree’ with special lyrics for Port Jefferson," says street character coordinator Karen Overin. "It’s pure holiday magic."

Pickwick's Giant Puppet Parade, 5 p.m., Sunday, Maple and Main streets to Village Hall

This year’s festival will march into history with the second appearance of a quartet of giant puppets, which debuted in 2019. Ten feet wide, mounted on carts, with frightening faces and puppeteer-operated hands, Jacob Marley and Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future were created with 3D computer technology by Gen Varela of Port Jefferson and Vin Blangiardo of Port Jefferson Station.

"The Ghost of Christmas Past has a candle flame head," Allan Varela marvels.

MORE INFO: 25th Charles Dickens Festival, Dec. 4 and 5, downtown Port Jefferson, 631-473-4724, portjeff.com/dickens, gpjac.org

More Lifestyle