The 26th annual Dickens Festival was held in Port Jefferson on Saturday as performers caroled in the streets dressed in 1850s garb. Credit: Morgan Campbell

Rain and wind couldn’t dampen the holiday spirit in Port Jefferson on Saturday as the community marched in a parade dressed in 19th century attire, sang carols and put on street performances of some of Charles Dickens’ classic works.

The Dickens Festival is a 26-year Village of Port Jefferson tradition and visitors this weekend were reminded the celebration continues in the best of weather, and the worst of weather.

“We're either crazy or we're die-hards,” said Village Mayor Margot Garant. “I think Dickens is really special and everybody looks forward to it so much that you see the energy.”

Street performer "Mrs. Sourbury" walks on main street at the...

Street performer "Mrs. Sourbury" walks on main street at the Dickens Festival in Port Jefferson on Saturday. Credit: Morgan Campbell

Residents and guests of the village huddled under umbrellas and storefront awnings as the opening parade traveled down East Main Street to the village center in heavy rain. Families then gathered indoors and listened to opening carols, ate tasty holiday treats and viewed decorated trees before getting in line to meet Santa Claus. 

The storm simply wasn’t enough to keep everyone away Saturday, even if the crowds on the streets were thinner than usual.

“It’s an iconic event that’s been going on almost my whole life,” said Amanda Sadlo, an employee at nearby Mariano Rivera Honda who made the commute to Port Jefferson on her day off to introduce her two daughters to the tradition.

The Greater Port Jefferson-Northern Brookhaven Arts Council produces the event with the village.

The Port Jefferson Village Center is decorated with snowflakes and...

The Port Jefferson Village Center is decorated with snowflakes and Christmas trees at the Dickens Festival in Port Jefferson on Saturday. Credit: Morgan Campbell

Garant also credited Dave Melious, this year’s festival honoree, and his parks department employees, with creating much of the ambience that transports Port Jefferson through time each December. They decorate the lamp posts with wreaths and holiday lights and when participants arrive for the two-day festival in full Dickensian costume, an old-fashioned feeling takes over. Some of the 19th century architecture from the village heyday as a shipbuilding port remains to aid in that transformation.

George Overin, a Bohemia resident who has participated in the festival since its third year, said the event also was a transformative experience for people not in the holiday spirit.

The Connecticut Carolers sing on at the Dickens Festival on...

The Connecticut Carolers sing on at the Dickens Festival on Main Street in Port Jefferson on Saturday. Credit: Morgan Campbell

He spoke of how sometimes a passerby might look at him and his fellow Dickens characters in his long coat and top hat, his face covered in soot, and think, “Oh, look at these idiots.”

“We say merry Christmas and happy holidays to you,” Overin said. “You get a smile from them and from that moment you ease their pain. That’s what this is all about.”

A gingerbread contest, historical society holiday open house and more theatrical performances are on the schedule when the festival continues Sunday. The weather is expected to be much better with mostly sunny skies and a high of 44 degrees.

Garant recalls one winter weekend about two decades ago when a blizzard wiped out the first day of the festival, but the village had the streets ready in time for Sunday.

“The village was open for Dickens then as it is now,” the mayor said. “That’s how much everyone tries to get this done, no matter what.”

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