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Visit the days of Dickens during month-long celebration

The Little Black Dog Gallery and Pilgrim Candle (seen above) are among the many local businesses participating in the The Old Curiosity Shop Tour, which will take place on Dec. 3 and 4. The Tour is part of WOW! Westfield on Weekends' annual Dickens Days month-long celebration. MetroWest Reminder photo by Michelle Symington
By Michelle Symington

MetroWest Reminder Assistant Editor

WESTFIELD WOW! Westfield on Weekends will soon kick off a series of events that will bring residents and visitors back in time to the days of Charles Dickens.

The organization is hosting its second annual Dickens Days, which is a month-long celebration for people of all ages.

Bob Plasse, chair of the steering committee for the Westfield Community Development Corporation (CDC) explained that WOW! Westfield on Weekends was founded as project under the CDC to provide an "umbrella of themes for organizations and businesses to hang their hat on in order to promote the city and individual organizations and businesses."

Plasse explained that the group began as a small grassroots organization with a few people attending meetings and has grown into a larger entity with about 25 people at each meeting. He added that, at one point, he had counted over 50 businesses and organizations that participate in and help plan WOW! Westfield on Weekend events.

Plasse said that the events "unite three or four segments of the population businesses, average citizens and community organizations and churches."

He added that in looking at the roster of events, "you see a wonderful mix of the world of business and the world of not-for-profit."

Plasse explained that the WOW! Westfield on Weekends put on the series of events for a small price last year, but has been able to market the events more this year due to a grant from the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority.

"This is the first major push to have area people recognize the beauty of Westfield and the fact that it has a thriving cultural community and life in our city," he said.

A number of events that previously took place in the city have come together under the organization's Dickens Day Celebration and new signature events have been formed to anchor the month of events, according to Plasse.

For example, the annual Dickens of a Day Historic House Tour put on by the Western Hampden District Historical Society debuted in 2003 and is now part of the larger month-long celebration.

Candy Pennington, chair of the Dickens of a Day Historic House Tour, said that being under the umbrella of WOW! Westfield on Weekends "flows together" their event with all of the others.

She explained that the Western Hampden District Historical Society created the house tour to raise funding for historic preservation in the city and to support the Dewey House.

"We raised almost $5,000 in two years," she said.

This year, the tour will feature six historic homes, each of which will include a room themed from the work of Charles Dickens.

Pennington said that one of the rooms will be Scrooge's bedroom, with Scrooge in bed and another home will have Tiny Tim's Toy Shop.

The Historic House Tour will take place Dec. 4 from 11 a.m. - 4 p.m. The event begins at the Westfield Athenaeum, where Pennington said families can enjoy the 18-foot Christmas Tree along with photographs of the homes from past tours as well as historic homes in Westfield that no longer exist. Queen Victoria will also be present to greet the participants.

The tour includes three homes on Chestnut Street, which include: Seven Chestnut Street, built in 1891; Nine Chestnut Street, built circa 1890; and 11 Chestnut Street, built circa 1896.

The two homes on West Silver Street include 116 West Silver Street, built in 1790 and 120 West Silver Street. built in 1895.

The sixth home featured in the tour is 14 Mill Street, which was built in 1912.

Tickets for the tour are $15 and can be purchased at the Athenaeum the day of the event.

Plasse explained that the WOW! Westfield on Weekends moved Santa's House from the City Green to Amelia's Garden at Amelia Park last year.

"That's where it should be, in a wonderful garden" he said.

He said that Amelia Park decorated the trees in the garden and brought in animated lights, which made it look like a "wonderland in there."

One of the events Plasse mentioned is a performance by Gerald Charles Dickens, the great -great-grandson of Charles Dickens.

Plasse said that Gerald Charles Dickens has been performing a one man show of the Christmas Carol, just as his great grandfather had done. He added that Gerald Charles Dickens is on his farewell tour in America.

The performance will take place at the First Congregational church, which Plasse said holds 600 people. There will be two performances one at 3 p.m. and one at 7:30 p.m.

"It gives the opportunity to people in the area interested in meeting a relative of Charles Dickens and see what he used to do years ago," he said.

Tickets for that event are $12 for adults and $6 for seniors and children. Reservations can be made by calling (413) 562-2277.

Plasse explained that many of the Dickens Days events are free. However, some events with admission price benefit WOW! Westfield on Weekends or the organization hosting the event.

"It is a lot of fun," Plasse said.

He said that someone has asked him about the connection between Charles Dickens and Westfield.

"When thinking about the holiday season and picking something to appeal to all people, the Victorian Age and Dickens go across all ages," Plasse said.

Dickens Days is made possible through the support of the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, MassMutual Financial Group, The Westfield Evening News, Westfield Gas and Electric, Bannish Lumber Inc., and the city of Westfield.

The schedule of Dickens Days events is as follows:

November 25 Santa arrives at Amelia Park by helicopter, 10 a.m. - 12 p.m., free

November 28 Candles and Carols, Mayor Richard Sullivan's Greenlighting Ceremony 6:30 p.m. on Westfield Green, free

November 30 A Christmas Carol, an acclaimed one-man benefit performance by Gerald Charles Dickens, the great-great-grandson of Charles Dickens, 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. First Congregational Church, Tickets $12 Adults $6 Children and Seniors to benefit WOW! Westfield on Weekends! For reservations: 413-562-2277.

December 1 Tis the Season! Richie & Kathi Mitnick present a Holiday Concert by Rhapsody to benefit Westfield Council on Aging, 7:30 p.m., North Middle School .

December 1 Winter Jazz Night, Westfield State College Jazz Band, 7:30 p.m. Dever Auditorium, free.

December 3 and 4 The Old Curiosity Shop Tour (Ongoing throughout December). Stores include: ABC Antiques & Crafts, 658 Montgomery Rd; Conner's Inc., 34 Elm St; Estate Antiques, 370 Southwick Rd; Flowers by Webster, 52 Court St: Little Black Dog Gallery/Cassie's Caf & Bookstore, 16 Union Ave; Magickal Spirit, 76 Elm St; Pepperberries, 276 East Main St; Piece of My Art, 40 Main St; Pilgrim Candle Marketplace, 36 Union Ave; Shutters & Vines, 166 Meadow St; Terra American, 382 Southampton Rd; The Tobacco Barn, 53 Elm St, Twigs & Berries, 82 West Rd; Whip City Candle Co., 3 Depot Sq; With Heart & Hand, 61 Southwick Rd and Wyben Antiques, 30 North Elm St. It's a self-guided tour through the streets of historic Westfield and Wyben and sixteen of Whip City's finest antiques and collectibles shops. It's a buyer's bonanza with Dickens Days touches, sales and promotions everywhere. Visit all sixteen shops and win a $400 shopping spree! Tour maps are available at every shop.

December 3 Queen Victoria's Victorian Tea, First Congregational Church, 1 p.m. $15 tickets Advance reservation required 568-2833.

December 3 The Family Carol Festival, First Congregational Church 3:30 p.m., free.

December 4 Third Annual Dickens of a Day Historic House Tour (to benefit Dewey House and historic preservation), begins at Westfield Athenaeum 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Tickets $15 at door.

December 5 Lights of Hope: Victorian Luminaries on the Green to benefit Cancer House of Hope, 6:30 p.m., Westfield Green.

December 7 "O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!" Lecture on the Christmas tree by Wil Stebbins 7 p.m., Westfield Athenaeum, free.

December 9 Royal Messiah Singalong 7:30 p.m., the Festival Chorus and Orchestra of Westfield and Westfield String Ensemble Adults $10 and Seniors/students $5.

December 9, 10, 16, 17 The Littlest Angel presented by the Westfield Theater Group, Westfield Woman's Club, 8 p.m. (matinee at 2 p.m. on 12- 17) .

December 10- Here We Come A' Wassailing The Holiday Concert of the Westfield State College Chorale, 7:30 p.m. Second United Methodist Church, free.

December 11 A Royal Holiday Concert and Carol-sing with the Chancel Choir and Royal Brass Quintet, 3 p.m., United Methodist Church, free.

December 10 Fezziwig's Holiday Faire , crafts and stocking stuffer festival to benefit Amelia Park Children's Museum and Amelia Park, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Amelia Park Ice Arena and Amelia Park, free.

December 10- Skating with the Cratchits, 1-3 p.m. at the Amelia Park Ice Arena, free.

December 12 Westfield Evening News Community Carol-Sing, 6:30 p.m. Westfield Green, free (Bad weather date- December 15).

December 16 and 17 Winter Warm Songs for the Solstice, cabaret performance starring Sophia Bilides, 8:30 p.m., Piccolo's Ristorante, Tickets $25 to benefit WOW! Westfield on Weekends! For reservations: 413-562-2277.

December 17 The First Noel- Live Nativity Scene, Amelia Park, times TBA, free.

December 17 and 18 Victorian Celebration at Pilgrim Candle Marketplace.

December 20 David Copperfield Book discussion, 7 p.m. Westfield Athenaeum, free.

December 21 Snowfire! All Hail the Winter Solstice! Bonfire & Ceremony 6:30- 8 p.m. at Amelia Park.

The Westfield Holiday Tree (18-feet tall) and Homes for Holidays photo exhibit of historic houses by Rich Wood, Rand Gallery of Westfield Athenaeum, Athenaeum hours, free.

Santa's House hours Visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus at Amelia Park with photos available at $5 to benefit Westfield Dickens Days. Nov. 25 from 10 a.m - 12 p.m.; Nov. 26, Dec. 3, 10 and 17 from 12 - 4 p.m.; Nov. 27, Dec. 4, 11 and 18 from 12 - 4 pm.; Dec. 22 and 23 from 6 - 8 p.m.

Ebenezer's Evergreens First Methodist Church Parking Lot , Weekdays 4 - 8 p.m., Saturdays 9 a.m. -8 p.m. and Sundays 1-8 p.m.

Dickens Days in the Restaurants Adrienne's Deli (ongoing); Buon Appetito (TBA); Chad's Good Table (December 3, 10, 17 & 23) The Flight Deck (Dec 11 & 18); Leo's Gallery Deli (December 17) School Street Bistro (December 2,3,9,10, 17 & 23), The Tavern Restaurant (December 3, 10, 17 & 23) and The Westwood Pub and Restaurant (December 2). Westfield's restaurants and delis cook up a feast of holiday happenings throughout December. Enjoy an Olde English Breakfast or a Victorian specialty, served by costumed wait staff and/or accompanied by surprise visits by Father Christmas and/or the Dickens Days spirits and carolers. Aunt Peggoty, Polly Toodle, Oliver Twist, Betsy Trotwood, Bumble the Beadle and other Dickens characters are awaiting you.