The 30th edition of Dickens Christmas in Skaneateles opens Nov. 24, enchanting holiday shoppers as it brings “A Christmas Carol” to life. The iconic street theater production runs weekends through Christmas. Hours are noon to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, with a limited show (noon to 2:30 p.m.) Christmas Eve.
But take note: The year is 1842.
Queen Victoria has arrived in town with Charles Dickens, whom she has commissioned to write a Christmas story. During their monthlong stay, Dickens gains inspiration from a bevy of now-familiar characters, along with finishing school girls, pickpockets and other villagers. The story unfolds each week as Dickens and his entourage interact with cast members and passersby.
Also visiting is Dickens’ friend Washington Irving, who is working on his latest ghost story, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.”
“We’re thrilled to celebrate our 30th anniversary here in Skaneateles,” says producing director Jim Greene, who plays Dickens. “Her majesty Queen Victoria and I are excited to embrace the warmth and love we find here every year.”
To mark the occasion, he says, “Mayor Fezziwig will host a lovely Christmas Ball Dec. 10 at the breathtaking Sinclair of Skaneateles. We hope you can join us and wish you all the happiest Christmas ever!”
Dickens Christmas is produced by Scarlett Rat Entertainment and presented by Howard Hanna Real Estate Services, the Skaneateles Area Chamber of Commerce Foundation and the Skaneateles-area business community.
Highlights of this year’s season include:
- World’s Smallest Christmas Parade. Nov. 24, starting at noon at the Skaneateles Village Hall on Fennell Street, proceeding east to Jordan and Genesee streets and arriving at the Hannum House porch in time for the 12:10 p.m. grand opening.
- Midday Revels — Christmas carol sing-along — 2 p.m. every day at the gazebo. Twelve groups form, representing the 12 days of Christmas. The groups vie for attention, and at the end, Queen Victoria awards a silver teasel to the most spirited performer. Winners have been known to wear their coveted silver teasels throughout the season.
- Trunk shows, in which Washington Irving and Charles Dickens perform lighthearted versions of their Christmas stories with help from the audience, 12:30 p.m. at the gazebo and 3 p.m. at the library each day.
- Horse-drawn wagon and carriage rides Nov. 24 and 25 (weather permitting), departing from The Sherwood Inn, provided by Rt. 80 Quarry Ridge Stables. Wagon rides are $5 per person, $20 per family (of up to six), $5 for each additional person thereafter. Private carriage rides are offered for a $50 donation (cash only).
- Appearances by the Bright Friday Brass, Nov. 24 and every Saturday.
- Musical performances by the Classic Guitar Ensemble from the Music School of CNY, Symphoria and a variety of other groups, and dance performances by the cast’s finishing school girls.
- Fezziwig’s Christmas Ball, 5 to 7 p.m. Dec. 10 at The Sinclair of Skaneateles, 4357 Jordan Road, with festive English country dancing led by the Syracuse Country Dancers. Tickets are $20 per person.
- A snowman-building contest in Clift Park Dec. 16 (weather permitting). Bring your own supplies and creativity! Queen Victoria will judge the entries at 2:45 p.m. First prize is a $50 gift card from The Sherwood Inn; second prize is two Dickens mugs with cocoa.
- “A Christmas Story — The Radio Play,” presented at 7 p.m. Dec. 16 at Auburn Public Theater. Tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for children 12 and under. A livestream will be available for those unable to attend in person.
- Free refreshments, including roasted chestnuts donated by Tops Friendly Markets (available outside Pure Placid), and Byrne Dairy eggnog served by the Girl Scouts (Saturdays only, in front of Loft 42).
For children, Mother Goose will read holiday stories at Loft 42, and Father Christmas will hand out treats from the porch of the Masonic Temple.
“We can’t wait to welcome everyone back for another fun-filled holiday season — and the wondrous gift that is Dickens Christmas,” says Hilary Fenner, executive director of the Skaneateles Area Chamber of Commerce Foundation. “While you’re in town, be sure to visit our unique shops and restaurants — the perfect complement to a holiday outing. And stop by the Chamber, at 22 Jordan St., for 30th anniversary commemorative scarves ($20 with an embroidered logo, $10 without), scarf/mug combos ($25), mugs ($10), mugs with hot cocoa packets ($12) and ornaments ($5).”
Behind the Scenes
Dickens Christmas has over 40 cast members, including young apprentice talent, who are joined by a variety of guest musicians and caroling groups. The show comes together in just six rehearsals.
“We pack a lot in and streamline the process of building a character,” says Greene, of Dryden. “Every actor learns music and uses improvisational techniques to build their character and become part of the ensemble.”
Greene is assisted by:
- Maria DeMitchell, of Marcellus, who is artistic director and plays Queen Victoria
- Victoria King, of Syracuse, who is music director and plays Lady Mariah. King is assisted by Patrick Glaub, of Hazel Park, Michigan, who plays Washington Irving.
- John Michael Decker, of Queensbury, who is associate director and plays Scrooge
- Brett Norsworthy, of Wolcott, who is production manager and plays undertaker Barry M. Deep
- Tracey Greene, of Dryden, who is costumer
- Kristin Palazzoli, of Fayetteville, who is associate costumer
Dickens Christmas is made possible by the sponsorship support of over 130 local businesses. The festival is further supported through ticket sales from a Dickens Raffle. First prize is a Mirbeau gift package valued at $750.
Other prizes are a Stay and Dine package from The Sherwood Inn and Gilda’s; a gift basket from Balsam Rose Soap Co.; a Downtown Dining basket; a Health and Wellness basket; a Dickens basket featuring items by Eleanor Rhinehart Studio; a New Hope Mills basket; two tickets to a 2024 performance at The Rev; attendance for two at a Pick Your Project Workshop at Board & Brush; and a Chocolate Pizza Company gift basket.
Raffle tickets — $5 each, three for $10, 10 for $25 — are on sale at the Skaneateles Area Chamber of Commerce and other village locations.
Dickens Christmas is a mask-friendly event.
Paid parking is available in the municipal lot between Jordan and State streets. Free parking is available in the Austin Park Pavilion lot at the corner of Jordan and Austin streets, and in the lower gravel lot of Skaneateles High School across from Leitch Avenue.
The first four weekends, from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., a free shuttle will run between these two lots and the village, stopping behind Doug’s Fish Fry. The shuttle is made possible by support from First Student buses, Visit Syracuse, Doug’s Fish Fry and the Skaneateles Area Chamber of Commerce Foundation.
For more information on Dickens Christmas, go to skaneateles.com, call 315-685-0552 or follow the event on Facebook (Skaneateles Area Chamber of Commerce or Dickens Christmas in Skaneateles).
Usher in the Holidays With Skaneateles Sings and Shop Skaneateles
Two community events complement the season-long celebration of Dickens Christmas in Skaneateles.
On the evening of Dec. 1, the community will gather for Skaneateles Sings.
At 6:30 p.m. at the Skaneateles Library, Pastor Justin Hood of the United Methodist Church will dedicate the crèche in a candlelit ceremony. For those arriving early, Father Christmas will greet children and pose for photos starting at 6 p.m.
The ceremony will be followed by candlelit caroling with the Dickens characters; lighting of the Christmas tree and remarks at the gazebo; a reception at the United Methodist Church with Father Christmas; and an open house at village stores.
Leading up to the event, from 4 to 6 p.m., the Barrow Art Gallery will host a Holiday Open House with live piano music, gift shopping and refreshments.
Skaneateles Sings is sponsored by the Skaneateles Bakery and organized by the Skaneateles Area Chamber of Commerce Foundation, Skaneateles Girl Scouts and Skaneateles Garden Club.
“The Chamber would like to extend a special thank-you to Strawberry Fields, which donated the Christmas trees for the Masonic Temple and the gazebo, and the Girl Scouts, who decorated the gazebo tree,” says executive director Hilary Fenner. “We’d also like to thank the village and town for their financial support of the decorations and the Village Electric Department for its help in putting up the decorations, which will be enjoyed by the community all season long.”
During Shop Skaneateles, Dec. 5, you’re invited to shop throughout the day and Shop, Sip and Stroll from 5 to 8 p.m.
Many village shops will offer free gift-wrapping and refreshments. In the evening, parking will be free village-wide.
Merchants offering specials that night include:
- DROOZ and Company — complimentary gift bags and gift tags.
- Emma + James and Hap + Main — $20 gift card for use on a future purchase with every $100 spent.
- Nest 58 — 10% off all merchandise.
- Pure Placid — “Twinkling Tranquility” tree-lighting at 5:30 p.m., 20% off all gift sets, and sweet treats while you shop.
- Rhubarb Kitchen Shop — tastings from Finger Lakes Harvest (shrubs, tonics and holiday Glögg) and Chica Celita’s (authentic, all-natural salsa). Follow the shop on Facebook and Instagram for holiday specials on cookware and cutlery.
- Sea Culture Brand — 15% off all merchandise, excluding cigars, shoes and some third-party brands.
- Sky Yoga — class specials and holiday sales.
- The Local Branch — $10 gift card with purchases over $100, $20 gift card with purchases over $250, $50 gift card with purchases over $500. Gift cards valid through Dec. 31, 2024.
- The Savage Homestead — holiday shopping by candlelight, festive refreshments, boutique-only specials, and deluxe samples with every purchase.
- The Wandering Kind — 10% off full-price styles.
For more specials, go to skaneateles.com.
Anyone making a purchase that evening will have their choice of a free drink from The Sherwood Inn, Blue Water Grill or Lake House Pub or 15% off a bottle of wine from the Village Bottle Shop.
Shop Skaneateles is sponsored by the Skaneateles Area Chamber of Commerce.