“Dickens of a Christmas” Brings Victorian Fun Dec. 1-3

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Horse carriages will offer rides through the Historic District Friday night and Saturday afternoon. Photograph by Michael Wootton.

Chestertown’s first “Dickens of a Christmas” event will bring the excitement of Victorian London and the spirit of Charles Dickens’ timeless tale A Christmas Carol to the downtown district Dec. 1-3, 2017.  Sponsored by the nonprofit Main Street Chestertown organization, the weekend promises themed entertainment, food and music, along with spirits tastings and talks by Dickens experts.

Visit DickensChestertown.org for schedule updates and to purchase reservations for ticketed events.

First Friday Fun. The weekend officially kicks off with an extra-festive First Friday, Dec. 1 from 5 to 8 pm. Horse carriage rides will clip clop up Cross Street and through the historic district. The 300 block of High Street will be closed to traffic, and — weather permitting — fire pits will be set up so guests can cook hot dogs and roast marshmallows for S’mores. From 5 to 7 p.m., local talents including Andrew McCown, Melissa McGlynn, Jamie Kirkpatrick, Marcia Gilliam, Jake Swane, and Michele Volansky will share “Stories and Songs by the Fire.“

Fire Dancers! At 7 pm, two professional fire dancers from the D.C.-based Pyroxotic troupe will perform a sizzling hot show on the street.

A full Saturday of activities starts with a Victorian version of the award-winning farmers market in Fountain Park and extends through the day with live performances, food vendors, and ticketed events including a historic house tour, Victorian high tea, a Sweet Shop and gingerbread house display, sherry and whiskey tastings, and “beer and bonfires” party.   Throughout downtown, restaurants are offering special Dickens-themed menus with items such as Beef Wellington and Yorkshire Pudding, oyster pot pie, sticky toffee pudding, and ploughman’s lunches. Find more information on food options at DickensChestertown.org.

Minstrel Jerry Brown and his monkey Django will entertain all ages

Open from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., the Dickens Welcome Center, in the former Chestertown Bank Building, 211 High Street, will orient guests, hand out official programs and sell tickets to special events (as available). It also will house the Main Street Millinery Shoppe, where guests can buy bonnets, top hats and other Victorian headgear.

Other Saturday highlights:

The Peoples Bank Sweet Shop, in the Spring Street lobby, will be lavishly decorated and will feature gingerbread houses made by staff, family and friends.

Minstrel Jerry Brown and his monkey Django will perform throughout the day, with two longer shows at 11 am at Peoples Bank and 2 pm in the Welcome Center.

 A full day of live music will include Dovetail, Tom McHugh and the Chester River Beggars, Bells of the Bay, Jigs and Reels, the Kent County High School jazz ensemble, and several strolling artists.

RiverArts Clay Studio is offering ornament workshops from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.  $15 for two ornaments. (Also available Friday night.)

Author Paul Mast will read from his novel, A Cratchit Family Christmas, at The Bookplate at 11 a.m.

Strolling musicians will include washboard artist Dr. Jim Porter.

Washington College professor Katie Charles will talk about Charles Dickens and the angst the success of A Christmas Carol created for him.  The Bookplate, 1 p.m.

A 10-foot-tall walking Christmas tree will promenade around town, and for a donation to the Food Pantry you can hang a bell ornament on her branches.

The Wheelmen antique bicycle club will pedal up and down High Street from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Holiday House Tour offers ticketed entry to seven homes in the Historic District. Info and tickets, $20 in advance, $30 same-day at the Welcome Center.

Victorian High Tea welcomes guests to Hynson Ringgold House from 3 to 4:30. Reservations required, $35.

Spirits expert Neyah White has organized two tastings:  The Sherry Salon, a guided tasting of six styles of sherry, will take place in the future home of the Washington College Food Lab, 236 Cannon Street, 4 p.m., reservations required, $40.

The Chester River Nightcap aboard the Chester River Packet will be a tasting event of fine Glenlivet pours and a quality smoke from Ashton Cigars. Reservations, $40 in advance, $50 at the door.

The Kent County Young Professionals are hosting a Beers and Bonfires event Saturday night from 7 to 9 at the foot of High Street.  No tickets required. Craft beers, $5 a glass.

Also on Saturday, the 200 block of High Street will be closed to traffic, and vendors will sell food and gifts with a Victorian flare.  Participating food purveyors include Barbara’s on the Bay, Kirchmayr Chocolatier, FishWhistle (fish and chips), Happy Chicken Bakery, Gluten-Free Girl Bakery, and Apotheosis Teas.  Orchard Point will shuck raw oysters in front of the White Swan Tavern, where craft beer and wine will also be available.

            On Sunday morning, ages 12 and older can compete in the Chestertown “Run Like the Dickens” foot race. Starting at 8 a.m. at High and Cross streets, the route takes runners up High Street, into the Chester Cemetery, back downtown via the Rail Trail into Stepne Farm and around Wilmer Park before returning to High Street and the finish line near the White Swan Tavern.  Younger runners can compete in the “Dickens Dash” at 9 a.m.  Find registration information ($30 per runner) at DickensChestertown.org.

Main Street Chestertown, organizer of the event, is a 501(c)(3) whose volunteers work to support an engaging and prosperous downtown. It is part of a national network of historic downtowns created by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and follows the Trust’s tested model for revitalization.  For information, visit MainStreetChestertown.org.

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