Skaneateles Prepares for Another Season of Holiday Magic

Skaneateles Prepares for Another Season of Holiday Magic
Dickens Christmas Opens Nov. 27

Close your eyes and imagine. It’s easy if you try.

The year is 1842.

You’ve just met Charles Dickens and Queen Victoria, strolling the village streets.

They’re accompanied by Scrooge, Tiny Tim, Jacob Marley, Fagin, the Cratchits, the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future, and assorted townspeople and street urchins—all delighted to meet you and draw you into their world.

The revels play. Visitors ride by in horse–drawn carriages. And there are free refreshments for all.

In Skaneateles, it’s just a typical holiday weekend.

Dickens Christmas returns for its 16th year the Friday after Thanksgiving and runs noon to 4 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday through Dec. 20, with a limited show (noon to 3 p.m.) Dec. 24.

The event—produced by Scarlett Rat Entertainment and presented by Verizon and Skaneateles-area businesses—draws some 20,000 visitors each year to this picturesque Finger Lakes community.

“We invite Dickens fans from near and far to step back in time and join us for a slower-paced, more enjoyable atmosphere, where shopping can still be fun,” says Susan Dove, executive director of the Skaneateles Area Chamber of Commerce.

“Improvisational street theater, live music, and our 70-plus shops and restaurants make for wonderful family memories. A live brass band plays every Saturday on the village streets; a bagpiper or two may be found entertaining on Sundays; and local musical groups share their many talents in that heartwarming Dickens spirit.”

Highlights include:

• The Revels Live—Christmas carol sing-along—2 p.m. every day at the Gazebo. Twelve groups form, each representing one of 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.

• Free carriage rides around the village, provided by Chariots of Downtown. Rides depart from the Sherwood Inn on Saturdays and Creekside Books & Coffee on Sundays.

• Roasted chestnuts in front of Johnny Angel’s, donated by P&C Foods and roasted by Mid-Lakes Navigation.

• Cider and donuts at the Skaneateles Hotel.

• Hot chocolate on Saturdays, served by local Girl Scouts, at M&T Bank.

• Magic shows by John Henry Anderson, Wonderful Wizard from the North, Dec. 5, 6, 12, 13, 19 and 20 at 1 and 3 p.m. at the Skaneateles Library.

• Scenes from “A Christmas Carol,” acted out on village streets.

Entertainment—and education—provided for and by children

Children who visit can hear holiday stories read by Mother Goose at the Skaneateles Library, or receive treats from Father Christmas on the porch of the Masonic Temple.

But those who join the cast derive so much more.

Scarlett Rat Entertainment, which is committed to artistic growth and community involvement, offers a Dickens Academy, providing workshops for the youth cast and affording them the opportunity to work with successful professionals. The program—which uses improvisational exercises focused on developing a character for an experiential life lesson—aims to Build Character by Building Characters.

Expectations are clearly stated, and each youth participant and his or her parent sign an agreement at the outset of the program.

“Through the Dickens Academy, young people learn to elevate each other and make positive choices,” says Jim Greene, who heads Scarlett Rat. ”We set the bar high, and we expect kids to step up. With this experience come self-awareness, respect for others, and growth and maturity.”

Two graduates of the academy—Lydia Shahan and Gretchen Thomas—are now youth cast captains, assisting the directors during workshops.

“It’s rewarding to watch young people mature and make better choices,” says Greene, who has plans to expand the academy.

Behind the scenes

Dickens Christmas has a cast of about 60 (30 of whom are children). The show comes together in just six rehearsals. “We pack a lot in, and streamline the process of building a character,” says Greene, who also serves as producing director and plays Charles Dickens. “Every actor learns music and uses improvisational techniques to build his character. It helps that many of the actors return year after year.”

Assisting Greene are four associate directors: Maria Wechsler (who plays Queen Victoria and oversees character development), Kelly Stallard (who plays Abigail Fillmore and oversees music), Brian Goldblatt (who plays Fagin and oversees production of the Staves) and Tracey Greene (who oversees costumes).

Father Christmas sponsors are The ADworks, Chariots of Downtown, Johnny Angel’s, KeyBank, M&T Bank, the Sherwood Inn, and the Verizon Small Business Unit.

Media sponsors are News 10 Now, Eagle Newspapers, The Citizen/Skaneateles Journal, The Post-Standard, the Syracuse New Times, WCNY and WRVO.

“Visitors should come ready to have a good time and interact with the characters,” says Greene. “We invite people to experience the magic of Dickens. The real magic is in the interaction, and in the stories that unfold.”

For more information on Dickens Christmas, go to or call 315-685-0552.

Contact: Sue Dove
Skaneateles Area Chamber of Commerce