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Dickens Festival overcomes the cold

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The temperatures for this year's edition of the Dickens Village Festival in Carlyle were likely the coldest that they have ever been during the event, said event chair Shelley Slykhuis, but it was still a big success.

The festival is a celebration of a Victorian-era Christmas, and it features elements of Christmas in the days of Charles Dickens' “A Christmas Carol.” It's also an opportunity for Carlyle businesses to entice Christmas shoppers.

Attendance was likely down slightly due to the weather, she said, but the figure can be hard to gage, because the people who attend the festival are spread out at sites around the community.

About 400 people signed the guest book. Guests came from Saskatchewan, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Nova Scotia, Washington State and other locations.

“Most people thoroughly enjoyed it, and the people who were out for the first time thought it was great,” said Slykhuis.

All three performances of the festival's play, “Christmas at the Bah Humbug Ranch,” were sold out. The three showings attracted a total of about 700 people. The show offered a western spin on Charles Dickens' classic “A Christmas Carol.”

“It was well-received,” said Slykhuis. “People were saying it was probably the best one yet. They knew the songs quite well, everything from the auctioneer's song to 'Blue Christmas,' and even a couple of Johnny Cash songs.”

The lighted parade went ahead each night despite the temperatures.

The weather did force the cancellation of the horse-drawn carriage rides, over concerns about the safety of the horses and the riders. One of the street vendors opted not to sell their products.

Items like chili in a bread bowl, smokey on a stick, turkey legs and chowder soup proved to be very popular, Slykhuis said. The high tea was very well attended on December 7.

More than a dozen people were dressed in Victorian-era clothing for the festival, too. People donned the clothes of Ebenezer Scrooge, an ambassador couple, a town crier, two English bobbies, Father Christmas, urchins and carolers. The ambassadors were new for this year.

Slykhuis said the Dickens weekend has become an annual tradition for many people, not just those in Carlyle but those from outside of the community, and they look forward to returning to the community each year. 


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