Delightful Debut for “Dickens of a Christmas”


Kay MacIntosh (in hat) joins a group of ladies in period costume on High Street, Saturday.

Chalk up Chestertown’s first “Dickens of a Christmas” festival as a success. With warm weather, good crowds, and enjoyable events, the new event has to be considered the best new thing on Chestertown’s calendar since the Harry Potter festival came to town.

The fun began Friday night on the 300 block of High Street, which was closed to traffic to allow fire pits to be set up for roasting marshmallows or hot dogs. A series of readers told seasonal stories, and the Kent School Carolers provided musical selections. In keeping with the First Friday tradition, shops, restaurants and galleries were open, as was the Historical Society, many of them adopting seasonally-appropriate themes. Chestertown Councilman Marty Stetson said he had never seen so many shoppers on a First Friday.

The Pyroxotic Fire Dance troupe in action

A special highlight was a dazzling performance by the Pyroxotic Fire Dancers from Washington, D.C., who twirled batons, torches and other fiery items as part of an acrobatic dance performance. Free carriage rides through the historic district were also available, and many attendees took advantage of that opportunity.

Saturday, the festival moved to the 200 block of High Street, with vendors lining the street on both sides and a tent for musical performances at the corner of Lawyer’s Row. Musical groups including Tom McHugh and the Chester River Beggars, Bells of the Bay, the Washington College Brass Ensemble, Dovetail and Jigs and Reels played seasonal offerings. There were also a number of strolling performers, and the Kent County High School Jazz band offered a set of Christmas tunes on the corner of Cross and Cannon.

Dovetail — Nevin Dawson, viola, Jodie Littleton, vocals, Pres Harding, guitar

The Kent School carolers









The first floor of the KRM building, the former PNC Bank, was transformed into the Dickens Welcome Center and Main Street Millinery Shoppe. Costumed volunteers offered programs and information for the festival, while a selection of Victorian hats for both ladies and gentlemen was available. Also available were tickets for the historical house tours, organized by Main Street Chesgtertown, that were taking place the same day, which drew sell-out attendance.

Morgana Alba of Circus Siren Entertainment dressed as a walking Christmas Tree.  Festival-goers could decorate the tree with ornaments by making a donation to the Community Food Pantry.

Local restaurants offered a variety of taste delights, from a ploughman’s lunch at Chester River Wine and Cheese to meat pies and gin punch at Bad Alfred’s and pan-seared quail at Lemon Leaf Cafe. There was also plenty of food available from vendors on the 200 block of High, including raw Orchard Point oysters, scones, fish & chips, and a high tea at the Hynson-Ringgold house. For those with a sweet tooth, People’s Bank tranformed its lobby into a Victorian Sweet Shop, with a display of hand-made gingerbread houses and a barrel of jelly beans!

Riding a “penny-farthing” bike by Stam Hall

A fireplace in the “People’s Sweet Shoppe”

For those of a literary bent, the Bookplate presented two talks on the story that started it all, Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.”

The weekend concluded Sunday morning with the “Run Like the Dickens” 5K race and the “Dickens Dash” for young runners.

Kay MacIntosh of Main Street Chestertown, which organized the event, said she couldn’t be more pleased with the initial event in what promoters hope will become an annual event. She said the restaurants and shops all did very well, and while she said there are no real attendance figures, she thought the First Friday turnout may have been “a record-breaker.” The community “put on a good show,” she said, getting into the spirit of the event and striking up conversations with the out-of-town visitors. While there were inevitably a few behind-the scenes glitches, “we learned a lot for next year,” she said.

It looks as if Chestertown has a good start on another great holiday tradition!


Letters to Editor

  1. BETTY CARROLL says:

    YES, it was another great event for Chestertown. Everyone enjoyed themselves walking around town and enjoying the festivities. At their booth on High Street, the Fish Whistle sold out of their delicious FISH & CHIPS. Looking forward to 208,

  2. Joanne Ghio says:

    What a wonderful weekend! It was obvious that a lot of thought, time, and work went into providing this fun kick-off to the holiday season for our community as well as visitors. Thanks to all who made this event possible. We are looking forward to making Dicken’s Weekend an annual part of our December celebrations.

  3. Marty Stetson says:

    It is a winner in the winter, a great way to start the Christmas holiday. I saw lots of people most with a smile on their face and the remark, “isn’t this a great event.” I particularly like seeing the period dress on the many volunteers. I hope it continues as a annual event, it just seems to fit Chestertown. Thanks to all that made it possible and all that came out to enjoy it.

  4. Laura Wade says:

    A wonderful weekend. Many thanks to Kay MacIntosh and all the shops and restaurants who made the first Dickens of a Christmas such a success. Already looking forward to next year’s Dickens weekend.

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