Sixth annual celebration to be a Dickens of a good time
By Mike Briotta
WESTFIELD - Anyone yearning to travel back in time to the era of author Charles Dickens is once again in luck this year with Westfield's sixth annual Dickens Days, scheduled for Nov. 27 to Dec. 30.
The 18th century merriment won't be limited to Dickensian characters such as pickpockets and miserly old men - although those personalities will surely be represented in romantic Old English style.
Westfield's holiday plans this year abound with activities including lantern-making, musical plays, holiday strolls, artwork sales, the Bright Nights express, a Victorian feast, a community sing-along, the Snowfire promenade and myriad other events.
"It's amazing to think that Dickens Days is in its sixth year and also wonderful to know that our community has embraced it as a city tradition," Bob Plasse, president of Westfield on Weekends, said. He continued, "This year it is more exciting than ever with the inclusion of several new free and low-cost events, some of which we hope to become traditions in their own right."
Among the many highlights of the season, Plasse pointed out the Westfield State College (WSC) Music Department's fully-staged production of "Amahl and the Night Visitors" and the Dickens Dinner, for which area playwright Kathleen Palmer was commissioned to write a between-courses version of "A Christmas Carol."
"We have a schedule of art, theatre, movies, concerts and community events that would make even Ebenezer Scrooge smile," Plasse said.
Also of note this year are the first Village Stroll of downtown (Dec. 5) that will hearken back to the days when downtown Westfield thrived. Stores, galleries, restaurants and the Athenaeum will be filled with Victorian characters, crafts, art, music, sales and surprises. There will also be a Royal Honors celebration at Central Baptist Church during the day, at which "Queen Victoria" will honor new princesses and princes by presenting them with tiaras and medals.
This year, Santa and Mrs. Claus move indoors in front of the Amelia Park fireplace and onto the Westfield Green in the Santa House. Photos for $5 benefit the Amelia Park Ice Arena or Westfield on Weekends.
"Snowfire" returns for another holiday solstice celebration in 2009, with a bonfire and a holiday theatrical presentation. Revelers will promenade from the stage at Amelia Park, while holding bells and candles, to the giant, roaring Snowfire and prepare for cocoa and caroling. Dress in white and join Father Frost, his winter court and the snow fairies for this colorful welcome to winter.
The Windows of Westfield Celebration is an exhibit that will be displayed throughout various windows on Elm and Main streets. Once again, the Westfield Business Improvement District (BID) has invited visual artists of all ages and city non-profits to adorn storefront windows in the district. It's a stroller's gallery of fine art and colorful displays that celebrate Whip City and its new downtown.
Revelers should make sure to stop in at WSC Foundation's Downtown Art Gallery on Elm Street, which is celebrating the work of several fine Pioneer Valley artists and the valley that inspires them.
According to Lisa McMahon, Executive Director of the Westfield BID, the city's extended calendar of seasonal events is remarkable - even among communities nationwide that host similar celebrations.
"It is surprising across the country how many communities celebrate the season with a salute to magical world of Charles Dickens," McMahon said. "Cities like Port Jefferson, New York, and Galveston, Texas, have weekend events, but I believe that we are the only one that has a month-long calendar."
She concluded, "Dickens Days is a true community effort. More than 40 events in 30 days. What could be better!"
Following is the full schedule of events for Westfield's Dickens Days as provided by Westfield on Weekends. Please note that the details of events listed may be subject to change without notice:
• November 27
Santa's arrival by helicopter, 10 a.m., Amelia Park, 21 South Broad St., free
• Nov. 28
YMCA Breakfast with Santa, 8 - 11 a.m., YMCA, 67 Court St. Adults: $5, students $3; photos: $3
• Nov. 30
Lanternlight Parade to Mayor's Green Lighting Ceremony. Festivities on Westfield Green begin at 6 p.m. Caroling with WHS Concert Choir; parade kick-off at 6:15 p.m. Greenlighting at 6:30 p.m., free
The Santa House with Santa and Mrs. Claus, 6:30 (Greenlighting) - 8 p.m., Westfield Green ($5 photos to benefit WOW), free
• Dec. 2
"History of Westfield Basketball" lecture by Dan Genovese, 7 p.m., Westfield Athenaeum, 6 Elm St., free
• Dec. 3
First Thursdays at the Athenaeum: Holiday concert with WSC Music Department, noon, Westfield Athenaeum, free (box lunches/desserts on sale from Lydia's Gathering Place)
Second annual Senior Holiday Gala, noon - 4 p.m. Tekoa Country Club. Pre-sale $15 at Senior Center (until Nov. 20)
• Dec. 4
Amelia Park Ice Arena presents the Air National Guard Band of the Northeast: A Holiday Concert, 7 p.m., South Middle School Auditorium, 30 West Silver St., free
"Amahl and the Night Visitors," WSC Music Department, 7:30 p.m., Dever Stage, Parenzo Hall, Westfield State. Adults $9, children $6. Tickets at door and Ely Student Center
• Dec. 5
The first annual Dickens Village Stroll in the Downtown District 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. (map of day's activities available at Athenaeum)
Highlights include: Fezziwig's Holiday Faire, 10 a.m. - 4 p.m., Westfield Athenaeum, free; the Santa House with Santa and Mrs. Claus, 10 a.m. - 6 p.m., Westfield Green, free ($5 photos available to benefit WOW); carriage rides through Merry Olde Westfield 11 a.m. - 2 p.m. in front of Athenaeum; Ebenezer's Attic Sale, 10 a.m. - 3:30 p.m., Central Baptist Church, 115 Elm St.
In concert: The Performance Music Student Orchestra 1 - 2 p.m., Central Baptist Church, 115 Elm St., free
Queen Victoria's Royal Honors Celebration 2 - 3:30 p.m., Central Baptist Church, 115 Elm St., free
Pop-up shops, characters, caroling, sales and surprises, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. Shops, stores, galleries, churches and restaurants
"Amahl and the Night Visitors," WSC Music Department, 3:30 and 7:30 p.m., Dever Stage, Parenzo Hall, Westfield State College. Details: see Dec. 4 listing.
• Dec. 7
Lights of Hope: Victorian Luminaries on the Green 6 - 7:30 p.m., Westfield Green, free. $5 luminaries to benefit Cancer House of Hope
Athenaeum and Community Partnership for Children presents Holiday Family concert: Peter & Ellen Allard, children's recording artists, 6 p.m., Lang Auditorium, Westfield Athenaeum. Free but registration required. Call 562-6158
• Night Owls Concert, 7:30 p.m., Dever Stage, Parenzo Hall, Westfield State College, free
• Dec. 8
Tiny Tim's Holiday Tea, 10 a.m., Boys' & Girls' Library (ages 3 - 5). Registration required; call 562-6158 ext 5. Free
Percussion and Strings Ensembles concert 7:30 p.m., Dever Stage, Parenzo Hall, Westfield State College, free
Western Hampden Historical Society lecture on Dewey House,7 p.m., St. John's Lutheran Church, Broad Street, free
WSC Foundation Speakers Series: Elinor Lipman, novelist, 7 p.m., Scanlon Banquet Hall, Westfield State College (reception at 6 p.m.), free
• Dec. 9
Winter Light Reception, Art Sale and Concert to benefit fund for holiday lights 5:30 - 8:30 p.m., Westfield Athenaeum with 7 - 8 p.m. performance by musician/comedian Derek Mann, free
Musical recitals by WSC Music students, 7:30 p.m., Dever Stage, Parenzo Hall, Westfield State, free
• Dec. 10
Martha Cratchit's Holiday Tea, 10 a.m., Boys' & Girls' Library (ages 3 - 5). Registration required: 562-6158 ext 5. Free
Opening reception: "Gifts of Winter: Fiber and Collage," 5:30 - 8:30 p.m., WSC Foundation Downtown Art Gallery, 105 Elm St., free
• Dec. 11
The Royal "Messiah" Sing-along with Festival Orchestra, Chorus and Soloists 7:30 p.m., Dever Stage, Parenzo Hall Westfield State College, 577 Western Ave., free
• Dec. 12
David Copperfield's Crafts Table, 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m., Boys and Girls' Library, Westfield Athenaeum, 6 Elm St., free
The Santa Breakfast, two seatings: 8:30 - 10 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. - noon, Scanlon Banquet Hall, Westfield State College, 577 Western Ave. Children $5, adults $8, tables $70. Reservations: 572-5449. (Snowdate: Dec. 13)
Mother Goose's Holiday Tea, 10 a.m., Boys' & Girls' Library (ages 3 - 5). Registration required: 562-6158 ext 5. Free
Live performance: "The Velveteen Rabbit," 11 a.m. Lang Auditorium, Westfield Athenaeum, free
Victorian High Tea, 2 p.m., First Congregational Church, 18 Broad St., $15. Reservations required: 568-2833
Family Carol Festival, 3 p.m.: Young Singers of Westfield ; 4 p.m., Novi Cantori and New England Brass Quintet, First Congregational Church, 18 Broad St., free
• Dec. 13
Amelia Park Holiday concerts featuring 12:30 p.m. Westfield High School Show Choir; 1:30 p.m. - 4 p.m. Corey and the Knightsmen at Amelia Park Ice Arena, 21 South Broad St., free
Christmas Holiday concert with church choir, Smith College Bell Ringers and organist Grant Moss 3 p.m. Second Congregational Church, 487 Western Ave., free
The Bright Nights Express, Forest Park, Springfield. Buses leave City Hall at 6:15 p.m. $10 adults, $5 seniors/children includes bus trip of surprises and reception. Reservations required: 562-2277
• Dec. 14
The Westfield Evening News Community Carol-Sing 6 p.m., Westfield Green, free (Snowdate: Dec. 16)
The Santa House with Santa and Mrs. Claus, 6:30 (after Carol-Sing) - 8 p.m. on the Westfield Green ($5 photos to benefit WOW) , free
• Dec. 15
"The Mystery of Edwin Drood" book discussion, 7 p.m., Westfield Athenaeum, 6 Elm St., free
• Dec. 16
Holiday Sing-along Movie Series: "Mamma Mia," 6 p.m., Lang Auditorium, Westfield Athenaeum, 6 Elm St., free
• Dec. 17
The Dickens Dinner: "A Christmas Carol." Dinner with between-courses version of Dickens' classic, 6:30 p.m., 29 School St. Bistro, $35. Reservations: 562-2277. Tickets at www.tix.com, Westfield Athenaeum and School Street Bistro.
• Dec. 19
"The Velveteen Rabbit" presentation 11 a.m., Boys and Girls Library, Westfield Athenaeum, free
State Rep. Don Humason's Holiday Public Skate Party (refreshments) 7 - 7:50 p.m., Amelia Park Ice Arena, free
• Dec. 21
"Snowfire," 6:30 - 8 p.m. Amelia Park, 21 South Broad St., free
• Dec. 23
Holiday Sing-along Movie Series: "White Christmas," 6 p.m., Lang Auditorium, Westfield Athenaeum, 6 Elm St., free
• Dec. 29
Family Movie Day: "Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian," 2 p.m., Lang Auditorium, Westfield Athenaeum, 6 Elm St., free
• Dec. 30
Family Movie Day: "G Force," 2 and 6 p.m. Holiday Sing-along Movie Series: "The Sound of Music," Lang Auditorium, Westfield Athenaeum, 6 Elm St., free
• Free ongoing events:
The Santa House on the Westfield Green ($5 photos to benefit WOW), Nov. 30, 6:30 (after Greenlighting) - 8 p.m.; Dec. 5: 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.; Dec. 14, 6:30 (after Carol-sing) - 8: p.m.
Santa at Amelia Park; fireside, Amelia Park Ice Arena, 21 South Broad St., ($5 photos), Nov. 27, 10 a.m. -2 p.m.; Saturdays and Sundays; Nov. 29 - Dec. 20 (except Dec. 5), noon - 4 p.m.; Dec. 4 and Dec. 11, 5 - 7 p.m.; Dec. 21, 5 - 7 p.m. before "Snowfire."
The 18-foot Dickens Days Tree and Winter Light Art Exhibit/Sale, Westfield Athenaeum, 6 Elm St., during library hours.
"Contemporary Icons: Tempera Painting," through Dec. 5
"Gifts of Winter: Fiber and Collage" exhibit and sale, Dec. 8 - 30,WSC Foundation Downtown Art Gallery, 105 Elm St. Gallery hours: Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays, 2 - 5 p.m.; Thursdays, 2 - 7 p.m., and Saturdays, 1 - 5 p.m.
"Tom Patti: Illuminating the Invisible" exhibit, Nov. 18 - Dec. 18 at WSC Arno Maris Gallery, Ely Building, Westfield State College, Gallery hours: Tuesday - Saturday, 2 - 5 p.m.
The sixth annual Westfield Dickens Days celebration is presented by Westfield on Weekends Inc. and the Westfield Business Improvement District, Westfield State College and the City of Westfield and is made possible with the major sponsorship of Isabelle Gardens, Rocky's, United Bank, Westfield Bank and Westfield Gas & Electric and additional funding/assistance from Bannish Lumber, Hometown Structures, King Ward Tours, L and R Sales, Shaker Farms Country Club and State Rep. Don Humason.