By Katelyn Gendron
Reminder Assistant Editor
WESTFIELD "It's the most wonderful time of the year".or is it? Traffic will be backed up to the mall as far as the eye can see. Shopping deadlines will cause even the most relaxed to obsess over buying exactly the right present. The skinniest of models will fear massive weight gain from tempting holiday menus and promises of mailing holiday cards will remain unrealized due to the insane time constraints.
Westfield on Weekends (WoW) is inviting communities to take a breather from the holiday whirlwind and stop to embrace the holiday spirit as WoW has strived to recreate a wonderland straight out of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol." WoW has truly captured the "spirit of Christmas Past" and will be transforming Westfield into Dickens' Victorian era.
"Dickens Days is a great example of how businesses, individuals and non-profits can work together to create an event that every family in our town can enjoy," Bob Plasse, chairperson of Dickens Days, said. "When people think of the holidays they think of the Cratchit family, Tiny Tim, Scrooge and his spirits. Dickens Days is for Scrooge and for the Cratchits and for all the families in Westfield."
Beginning the day after Thanksgiving, people of all ages will have the opportunity to kick off Dickens Days a four-week festival of holiday art, theater, musical performances and other activities. The celebration will start with appearances by none other than Santa and Mrs. Claus at Amelia Park after they arrive by helicopter at 10 a.m. The park will illuminate the way to the pair with twinkle lights to the newly renovated Santa House. Children will be able to take photos with the famous couple for $5.
Plasse said the recent renovations have made the Santa House "look as if it were straight out of a children's picture book," with new landscaping, chimney and snow.
On Nov. 26, Queen Victoria, Charles Dickens, Santa, carolers and musicians will fill the streets with song for the Lanternlight Parade and the Mayor's Greenlighting Ceremony on the Green beginning at 6 p.m.
Plasse said Dickens will be there to "ring in the holidays with pomp and circumstance."
To add to the atmosphere of the parade and tree lighting ceremony many of the vacant storefronts on Main and Elm Streets will be decorated with holiday themes. The Westfield Business Improvement District (BID), working in conjunction with WoW, has gathered amateur and professional artists to adorn the storefronts with holiday lights and art.
"We want to bring [the storefronts] alive and make them more appealing," Lisa McMahon, executive director of the Westfield BID, said. "We decided to dress them up and get them in the spirit of the holidays." She added that these holiday window displays are just the beginning for the downtown storefronts as she hopes artists will continue to decorate the areas year-round.
On Dec. 2 from 11 a.m. 4 p.m. people will have the opportunity to watch Dickens' most famous characters come alive in A Dickens of a Day Historic House Tour. Beginning at the Westfield Athenaeum, at a cost of $15, people will venture out on a self-guided tour of Westfield's historical houses. Each house will have a room dedicated to a theme from "A Christmas Carol." The themes include "Scrooge's Bedroom," "Tiny Tim's Toy Shop," "Cratchit Family Christmas Dinner," "1843 Christmas Present" and "Ebenezer's Christmas Past."
Candy Pennington, chairperson of the A Dickens of a Day Historic House Tour, said the proceeds from the event will help to fund the hiring of a grant writer in order to declare this area of Westfield a National Historic District.
She added that the homes viewed on the tour are "perfect examples of how to restore a home rather than tearing it down."
Pennington, a lifelong Westfield resident, said she has never seen anything like Dickens Days in her city. She added that she continues to be amazed at the level of success and commitment WoW has demonstrated over the years.
"There are so many wonderful things going on and Dickens Days are just a way of celebrating the holidays and getting people together and in the spirit," she said.
For more information about Westfield on Weekends visit www.westfieldonweekens.org.
The complete list of Dickens Days events are as follows:
Nov. 23: Make Way for Father Christmas! Santa's arrival by helicopter, 10 a.m., Amelia Park, South Broad Street, FREE!
Nov. 24 - 25: A Victorian Christmas at Pilgrim Candle Marketplace, featuring the unveiling of the new "Great River - Through the Years" Exhibit, with visits from carolers and Santa throughout the weekend, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m., on Saturday, noon - 5 p.m. on Sunday, 16-36 Union Ave. FREE!
Nov. 26: Lanternlight Parade to Mayor's Green Lighting Ceremony, Caroling with the Westfield High School Chorale at 6 p.m. Parade kicks off at 6:15 p.m. with Santa and Greenlighting at 6:30 p.m., on the Westfield Green. FREE!
Nov. 30: "A Christmas Carol," original musical by Westfield Theatre Group, 7:30 p.m., Westfield
Woman's Club, 28 Court St. $12 adults, $10 students and seniors.
Dec. 1: Trim a Tiny Tree Storytime and Crafts (for grades K-2) 2 p.m. Westfield Athenaeum Boys' & Girls' Library. Registration is required, call 562-6158. FREE!
Dec. 1: Queen Victoria's Victorian Tea, 2 p.m., First Congregational Church, 18 Broad St. $12. Reservations required call 568-2833.
Dec. 1: Family "Christmas Carol" Concert with Novi Cantori & New England Brass Quintet, Allan Taylor, conductor, 3:30 p.m., First Congregational Church. FREE!
Dec. 1: In Concert: Westfield State College Chorale, Ted Davidovich, conductor, 7:30 p.m., Second Congregational Church, 487 Western Ave. FREE!
Dec. 1: "A Christmas Carol," original musical by Westfield Theatre Group, 7:30 p.m., Westfield
Woman's Club, 28 Court St. $12 adults, $10 students and seniors.
Dec. 1: "Grandma Got Runned Over by a .....Oh, My Dear!" Dinner Theatre with The Comical Mystery Tour and Silent Auction, Appetizers at 6 p.m. Dinner at 6:30 p.m., the new Amelia Park Children's Museum, South Broad Street. $30 per person to benefit the
museum. For reservations call 572-4014.
Dec. 2: Tea with Mrs. Claus. A Children's Museum benefit. $30 per family, includes Victorian child's portrait with Mrs. Claus, games, activities, crafts, ornament making, cookies, breads and tea.The new Amelia Park Children's Museum, South Broad Street. Two sessions: 9:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. & 1:30 p.m. - 4:30 p.m. Reservations call 572-4104.
Dec. 2: 5th annual A Dickens of a Day Historic House Tour, 11 a.m. - 4 p.m., begins at Westfield Athenaeum, 6 Elm St. $15 at door. Sponsored by Western Hampden Historical Society.
Dec. 3: Lights of Hope: Victorian Luminaries on the Green to benefit the Cancer House of Hope 6 - 7:30 p.m., Westfield Green.
Dec. 5: "A Christmas Carol": Its Origins and Importance, lecture by Professor Joel Brattin, past President of the Dickens Society, 7 p.m., Westfield Athenaeum, 6 Elm St. FREE!
Dec. 6: Belle's Victorian Decorations (for grades 3 - 5). Create an ornament with Ebenezer's pretty girlfriend at 4 p.m., Westfield Athenaeum Boys' & Girls' Library. Registration required call 562-6158, FREE!
Dec. 6: Joy to the World! Holiday concert with the Western New England Brass Choir, a large brass ensemble conducted Peter Demos, 7:30 p.m., First United Methodist Church, 16 Court St. FREE!
Dec. 7: 'Tis the Season! Richie & Kathie Mitnick present A Holiday Concert with The Rhapsody Singers 7 - 9 p.m., North Middle School Auditorium, 350 Southampton Rd. $7 Adults, $5 Students/Seniors, FREE for Children under 6. Sponsored by the
Westfield Council on Aging and Westfield Rotary to benefit their programs.
Dec. 7: "A Christmas Carol" original musical by Westfield Theatre Group, 7:30 p.m., Westfield Woman's Club, 28 Court St. $12 Adults, $10 Students/Seniors.
Dec. 8: The "Art"ful Dodger's Hanukkah Crafts Table (for any age), 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. Westfield Athenaeum Boys' & Girls' Library, 6 Elm St. FREE!
Dec. 8: Fezziwig's Holiday Festival and Crafts Faire including crafts market, performances, wagon rides, visits with Santa, gingerbread cookie-decorating workshops and Festival of Trees, 10 a.m. - 4 p.m., Amelia Park, Amelia Park Ice Arena, Amelia Park Children's Museum, South Broad Street. FREE!
Dec. 8: Skating wit the Cratchits, 1 p.m. - 2:50 p.m., Amelia Park Ice Arena, 26 South Broad St. $7 adults, $5 children under 14. Skate rental is $3.
Dec. 8: Happy Holidays concert by The Young Singers of Westfield, 4 p.m., First Congregational Church, 18 Broad St. FREE!
Dec. 8: "A Christmas Carol," original musical by Westfield Theatre Group, 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Westfield Woman's Club. $12 adults, $10 students/seniors.
Dec. 9: The Royal "Messiah" Sing-along and Bach's "Magnificat" with the Festival Orchestra, Chorus and Soloists of Westfield and conducted by Ted Davidovich, 3 p.m., Second Congregational Church, 487 Western Ave. Adults $10, seniors and students $5.
Dec. 11: Fa-La-La-La-La! In concert: Westfield High School Chamber Choir, 6 - 7 p.m., Amelia Park Ice Arena, 26 South Broad St. FREE!
Dec. 12: Four for Christmas: A Child's Christmas in Wales, The Gift of the Magi, A Christmas Memory and a World War II poem, performed by Robert Lehan & Bob Plasse, 7 p.m., Westfield Athenaeum, 6 Elm St. FREE!
Dec.13: Tiny Tim's Storytime, 10 a.m. Westfield Athenaeum Boys' & Girls' Library. Registration required call 562-6158. FREE!
Dec. 15: Mark Twain Talks! Advice to Humanity! The wit, the humor, the wisdom of America's greatest humorist, as portrayed by noted actor Bern Budd 7:30 p.m., Westfield Woman's Club, 28 Court St. $12 adults $10, students and seniors. Tickets on sale at Westfield
Athenaeum, 6 Elm St. and at door.
Dec. 15: Santa's Village 1 - 3 p.m., YMCA, 67 Court St. FREE!
Dec. 15: Oliver Twist's Crafts Table, 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m., Westfield Athenaeum Boys' and Girls' Library. FREE!
Dec. 16: Here We Come A 'Wassailing, Adult Church Choir, Smith College Bell Choir, Westfield State College Urban Education Gospel Choir, 3 p.m., Second Congregational Church, 487 Western Ave. FREE!
Dec. 18: Hard Times by Charles Dickens, book discussion, 7 - 8 p.m., Westfield Athenaeum, 6 Elm St. FREE!
Dec. 19: Dickens by the Book, Westfield poets/authors discover the poems and plays of Dickens at 7 p.m. Westfield Athenaeum, 6 Elm Street. FREE!
Dec. 20: Mrs. Cratchit's Tea Party (for ages 3-5), Stories, crafts and "apple juice" tea, 10 a.m., Westfield Athenaeum Boys' & Girls' Library. Registration required call 562-6158. FREE!
Dec. 21: Snowfire! All Hail the Winter Solstice! Three fires, a retelling The Magic Sceptre and the Legend of Blue Santa Claus by Joan Klatil Creamer followed by a procession to the giant Snowfire. 6:30 p.m. - 8 p.m. Amelia Park, South Broad Street. FREE!
Ongoing events include:
The Santa House, Amelia Park South Broad Street. FREE! Nov. 23, 10 a.m. - noon; Saturdays, Nov. 24 - Dec. 22, 2 - 6 p.m.; Sundays, Nov. 25 - Dec. 23, noon - 4 p.m.; December 21, 5 - 6 and 7 - 8 p.m.
The 18-foot Dickens Days Tree and Homes for the Holidays Exhibit. FREE! The Rand Gallery, Westfield Athenaeum, 6 Elm St. Mondays - Thursdays, 8:30 a.m. - 8 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays 8:30 am - 5 p.m.