Two More Weekends of Holly Dickens Festival Fun
(Crystal A. Proxmire, Nov. 27, 2018)
Holly, MI- “The Queen is coming! The Queen is coming!” said an excited bunch of chimney sweepers as a woman in a long golden-fringed dress and shawl came over the railroad tracks towards the children’s area. “We must bow for the Queen.”
Gracefully the Queen and another lady in a richly patterned dress and bonnet floated past, giving the dirty scamps a nod as they passed. Once free of their obligatory showering of praise, the chimney sweeps returned to their own style of fun. They chased each other about with rubber chickens, played games, and randomly burst into choreographed songs in the middle of the street.
The children of Holly are raised with Victorian accents and vivid imaginations. They grow up in a place with an enchanting historic downtown, complete with antique stores, old buildings, and a year-round place of Victorian charm – the Holly Hotel. And each year this space sets the scene for the Holly Dickens Festival.
It’s the longest running consecutive Dickens Festival in America, with this being the 45th year. And with three consecutive weekends of celebration, the amount of work – and fun – is great. Not only are their chimney sweeps and royal figures, there are other street performers and a stage with various musicians and performances.
Charles Dickens wrote over twenty books, most often with some commentary on Victorian Times. But it was “A Christmas Carol” that has stuck most in the minds of readers, and is the inspiration behind these three weekends in Downtown Holly each year.
“He went to the church, and walked about the streets, and watched the people hurrying to and fro, and patted the children on the head, and questioned beggars, and looked down into the kitchens of homes, and up to the windows, and found that everything could yield him pleasure. He had never dreamed of any walk, that anything, could give him so much happiness,” Dickens wrote of his famous antagonist Ebeneezer Scrooge after having seen the regretful life he had been living as a lonely, greedy, grumpy, miser.
He found the spirit of Christmas, which is rather that of community, and began to see the world beyond his own worries. This spirit of community is alive in historic Holly year round, but is most on display during the Dickens Festival.
In addition to the chimney sweeps, other street performers make appearances. Singers, jugglers, and even a man who can balance folding chairs towering above can be seen sporadically throughout Downtown Holly. The shops are full of cheer as many get into the Victorian theme. The historic buildings are adorned with garland and wreaths, and there are vendors on the street as well as inside the shops.
There is also a stage for music and performance, and a tent where children can see Santa. A traveling exhibit from the Detroit Institute of Arts gives visitors a peek at their offerings. Oregon-based Photographer Chris Levitan set up shop inside a temporarily vacant storefront on Battle Alley, watching the merriment unfolding around him. He’s already sold some of his work, and said he is amazed at how friendly people in Holly have been.
The Detroit Model Railroad Club is also open on Dickens Festival weekends, enchanting kids and adults with the largest O Scale model railroad in Michigan. Plus there is a sledding hill.
The festival brings an historic holiday atmosphere for those who come to revel in a day of Christmas past.
The first weekend kicked off with a lighted parade and tree lighting ceremony that over 3,000 people attended. Santa Claus joined local officials and Director of the Holly Area Chamber of Commerce Richard Kinnimon on stage as winners of the annual community awards were announced. State Farm Agent Mark Carney was awarded Businessperson of the Year. The Goldens – Ina Johnson and James – were awarded Family of the Year. The Holly Area Veterans Resource Center was honored to be Organization of the Year. And Person of the Year went to regular volunteer Lori Retka Goldsmith.
The Dickens Festival continues for two more weekends, wrapping up Dec. 9.
Detroit Model Railroad Club