Chestertown Stages a Dickens of a Weekend

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Chestertown’s second annual Dickens of a Christmas weekend, happening December 7-9 in the historic downtown district, promises non-stop entertainment, authentic British foods, hand-crafted gifts, a holiday house tour, and a Victorian streetscape that transports visitors back to 1840s London.

A fundraising preview party, Ebenezer’s Soiree, will fill The Bank, 211 High Street, with Victorian holiday spirit Thursday evening, December 6, from 6:30 to 9:30.  Mr. Scrooge, himself, will host, and Queen Victoria is expected to attend. Victorian garb or festive cocktail attire are encouraged. Tickets, $85, are available on the event website (dickenschestertown.org).

The weekend kicks off Dec. 7 at 5 p.m. with a fabulous First Friday celebration. In addition to extended shopping hours, there will be horse-carriage rides past 18th and 19th century homes, firepits with caroling and storytelling, a fiery performance by the DC-based Pyroxotic dance troupe, and live music by international Celtic favorite The American Rogues

The venue for Friday night’s special entertainment is the 300 block of High Street adjacent to Fountain Park. Fires will offer warmth, and the Community Food Pantry will sell S’mores and hotdogs to cook over the flames.  From 5:00 to 6:30, Marcia Gilliam and friends will lead caroling, and master storyteller Jake Swane will weave original tales.

The Pyroxotic dancers, who bewitched crowds at last year’s festival with their flaming dance routine, will be back in greater number this year, and with the addition of fire-eating and fire-breathing performers. Their show is set to begin at 7:30 p.m.

The Garfield Center for the Arts presents Tiny Tim’s Christmas Carol, playwright Ken Ludwig’s charming retelling of Charles Dickens’ classic tale, three times during the weekend: Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. To reserve tickets, visit garfieldcenter.org.

This year’s carriage rides will offer three experiences: an elegant two-person carriage ($5 per person), a six-person vis-à-vis ($2 a person), and a vintage wagon that seats 10 to 12 (free, donations welcome).

The fun continues Saturday morning from 10:00 on, with a London Row of artisan-made products and a full schedule of entertainment.  The Main Music Stage will include two sets by the American Rogues (10 and 3), plus popular regional groups Dovetail, Harp & Soul, and River Voices.

Street performers include the Big Whimsy stiltwalkers from Baltimore, Phydeaux’s Flying Flea Circus, juggler, stiltwalker and comedian John Hadfield with his mind-reading dog, Reggie, and  minstrel Jerry Brown.

Educator and performer Terry Borton brings his authentic American Magic Lantern Show to the Garfield Theater for three free holiday shows, at 11:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m. and 2:30 p.m.  The precursor to motion pictures, the Magic Lantern shows delighted Victorian audiences with beautiful projected images, live drama and music, and boisterous audience participation.  Borton, a fourth-generation lanternist, and his pianist will recreate holiday stories, both comic and poignant, in a show recommended for ages 6 and up. Reservations are requested via DickensChestertown.org.

A tour of eight historic homes near the river will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. There will be live music at several of the houses, along with the holiday decorations. Tickets, $30 a person, are still available at dickenschestertown.org. Last year’s tour was a sell-out.

Food vendors will offer everything from traditional Scotch Eggs, Fish ’n Chips, and oysters to sausage rolls and hand pies. Beer, wine and mulled wine will be available along with apple cider and hot chocolate. Local restaurants and pubs will have special Dickens menu items, from gin-punch bowls to Beef Wellington.

Saturday night, 6 to 9 p.m., the casual Beers and Bonfires party at the foot of High Street offers craft beers, firepits and fish and chips  by the River Packet. Weather permitting, the American Rogues will provide an acoustic musical backdrop from 7 to 8.

Sunday morning, starting at 8 a.m. (registration opens 7 a.m.), participants in the Run Like the Dickens 5K run and walk will course through downtown, looping into the Chester Cemetery to awaken the ghost of Marley, and returning along the rail-trail.  Participants can register online at dickenschestertown.org.

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Letters to Editor

  1. Vickie Quinn says:

    Soroptimist International of Kent & Queen Anne’s Counties will have their Annual Festival of Trees at the 1st United Methodist Church during the Dickens of a Christmas Weekend form Dec. 7-9, 2018. Stop by to see our display while you are in Chestertown! Santa will be available Saturday and Sunday from Noon to 2 p.m. Our event has been left out of all communications so far. Hopefully this will help get the word out!

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