One of Port Jefferson’s fastest-growing holiday traditions brought hundreds of people to Main Street on Saturday, despite the brisk temperatures.
The 21st Charles Dickens Festival stepped off with a parade from East Main Street to Port Jefferson Village Center that featured carolers in Victorian-era costumes.
The two-day event, which ends Sunday, offers ice skating, artisan tents, train exhibits, Victorian costumes, musical performances and street performers.
On Saturday people took in the annual cookie walk, a tree festival and chocolate displays at downtown shops.
Organizers said last year’s festival drew more than 10,000 people, a number they hoped to surpass this year.
Port Jefferson Village Mayor Margot Garant led the opening ceremony with some of the 140 volunteers who helped put the event together.
The festival began in 1996 as a way for the village to boost business for downtown merchants during the holiday season.
Amid the aroma of firewood and sweets, Nadine Loffreto, of Wading River, and Bette Forgione, of Nesconset, toasted marshmallows outdoors with their grandsons Zhen Loffreto, 11, and Robert Forgione, 12. Both were excited to see the children — in full costume — take part in an outdoor skit of the Dickens classic “A Christmas Carol.”
“The kids really put in a lot of work getting ready, so I’m really looking forward to seeing them,” Loffreto said. “So far, it’s been a great day. It’s a wonderful event, and fun for everybody.”
Diane Miller, of East Northport, beamed with pride as she watched her nieces and nephews read poems during the opening ceremony. The festival has become a tradition for her family, said Miller, 54.
“We’ve been coming here for a couple of years. We spend the weekends here [at the festival]and we love it every year,” said Miller, who grew up in Port Jefferson Station.
“I’ve been coming since I was their age,” said a smiling Chiara Rabeno, 17, of Port Jefferson, Miller’s niece, as she motioned to her younger siblings. Rabeno read a poem written by her sister Mattea Rabeno, 13, about appreciating the things the family had.
“Mattea couldn’t be here, but she’s here in spirit,” Miller said of the younger girl, who was in a hospital.