While doing some holiday shopping in the village of Port Jefferson this weekend, you might run into Oliver Twist or Ebenezer Scrooge in the street as the 27th annual Charles Dickens Festival gets underway.
“This is the village’s signature event. The Greater Port Jefferson and Northern Brookhaven Arts Council has taken this to extreme heights with its level of detail and programming,” says village Mayor Lauren Sheprow. “The festival brings Dickens to life and expectations are exceeded every year.”
Festive activities take place all throughout the village. Here’s what not to miss:
DICKENS CHARACTERS AND CARRIAGES
The two-day extravaganza officially kicks off with a parade that begins Saturday at 11 a.m. traveling down East Main Street to the Port Jefferson Village Center on East Broadway. Marching will be Backstage Studio of Dance from Port Jefferson Station, the Amityville Highland Pipe Band, The Knox School of St. James, Stony Brook University mascot Wolfie the Seawolf, vintage cars from Riverhead Toyota, a float from the Bridgeport Ferry as well as 90 Dickens-themed characters.
“We try to turn Port Jefferson Village into a Dickens stage,” says Arts Council chairman Allan Varela. “Author Charles Dickens had a message of peace, hope and unity and we carry that over.”
The Dickens characters, ages 4 to 74, consist of women in hoop skirts and men in top hats with a cape or long tails plus children portrayed as raggedy or rich. They will perform skits near the Village Way restaurant, at 106 E. Main St., throughout the day or simply greet attendees.
“Imagine being confronted by a 6-foot-tall chimney sweep saying, ‘Happy holidays, my darling!’ ” says Karen Overin, street-character coordinator. “It brings a smile to your face.”
Take a horse and carriage ride around the village starting at the Harborview Christian Church, located at 315 E. Main St., from noon to 4 p.m. on both days. The carriage holds approximately eight to 10 people at $5 per person and runs on a first-come, first-served basis.
DISPLAYS TO VISIT
On the second floor of the Port Jefferson Village Center, witness the Festival of Trees, where 22 styles of Christmas trees decorated by local businesses are on display both days from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Check out busy elves at work building toys for delivery on Christmas at Santa’s Workshop in the living room area on the second floor both days from noon to 4 p.m.
In order to meet the man in red himself, head over to Santa Claus Central at the First United Methodist Church, at 603 Main St., on Saturday and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m.
“Kids can write letters to Santa requesting what they want for Christmas, put them in a basket next to him and get a photo opportunity,” says Varela.
To meet Mrs. Claus go to the Suffolk Lodge No. 60 of Free and Accepted Masons, at 312 Main St., where there will also be a gingerbread house contest and kids magic shows from Steve Rodman (both days at noon, 1:20 and 2:40 p.m.) for $5 per person.
“Mrs. Claus will be set up on her throne and anybody who buys a ticket can take a photo with her and vote for their favorite gingerbread house,” says Masonic Junior Warden Jason Intardonato.
The Masonic Lodge also serves as the site for Fezziwig’s Dance Party on Saturday from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m., where a dance caller conducts Victorian contra dancing as a live band provides the music.
Train enthusiasts can watch the Reed family’s train layouts run at Tiny Tim’s Train Station inside the Harbormaster’s Building, located on West Broadway, Saturday from noon to 5 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m.
If your stomach starts to rumble, stop by the Cookie Walk at the First United Methodist Church from noon to 4 p.m. Grab some roasted chestnuts, chocolate or have lunch at Christ Episcopal Church, at 127 Barnum Ave., from noon to 4 p.m. Cookies will also be for sale at the Masonic Lodge.
The festival is rich with performances that are both musical and theatrical. However, the cornerstone of the event is Theatre Three’s production of the Dickens classic “A Christmas Carol,” starring Jeffrey Sanzel as Ebenezer Scrooge.
“Every performance is a journey,” says Sanzel, who is in his 35th year in the role, with over 1,500 performances. “It takes you through the complete range of emotions, from anger to frustration to regret to sadness and finally acceptance, redemption and joy.”
“A Christmas Carol” performances are held at Theatre Three, at 412 Main St., on Saturday and Sunday at 3 and 7 p.m. (tickets $25-$40). Kids can enjoy an adventure with Santa’s littlest elf and his reindeer friend in “Barnaby Saves Christmas” at Theatre Three on Saturday at 11 a.m. (tickets $12).
Simple Gifts Productions of Stony Brook presents the children’s play, “The Elves and the Shoemaker” at First United Methodist Church on Saturday and Sunday at 12:30, 1:30, 2:30 and 3:30 p.m. (tickets: $13 at the door).
See Dickens’ classic “A Christmas Carol” get transformed into an old time radio show at the Village Center Sail Loft on Saturday and Sunday at noon, 1:10 and 2:20 p.m.
“Back in the 1930s and 1940s when TV didn’t exist, you’d have plays put on over the radio,” says Varela. “A team of actors stand in front of the mic with their scripts while an audio engineer does practical special effects.”
Additionally, free live concerts will be taking place all throughout the village at various times from artists including Erika the Harpist, Reemy Foster Group, the Cotillion Strings, Jolly Jammers and more.
The festival concludes with Pickwick’s Puppet Parade, complete with Dickens street characters working hand puppets along the route, on Sunday at 4 p.m. running from Maple Avenue to Village Hall on West Broadway, where the closing ceremony ends with a tree lighting.
27th ANNUAL DICKENS FESTIVAL
WHEN | WHERE 9:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Saturday, 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday, throughout the village of Port Jefferson
ADMISSION Free (certain activities have fees)