Thanks to Barbara Morrow, Midwest Living magazine Deputy Editor, for this guest blog about the annual Dickens Festival in the quaint village of Holly.
“ ’Appy ’olidays,’’ calls a somewhat pasty-faced but pretty blonde in flowing robes. Scurrying to overtake a dour, gray-haired gentleman, she hurries along historic Battle Alley in Holly. “E-e-ey!’’ she implores, “I need to speak with you, sir.’’
“Confound it; will you leave me alone!’’ shouts the bearded fellow, clad in caped overcoat and beaver-skin top hat. “Bah, humbug!’’
This routine is aimed at kids looking on, bundled up to their wide eyes. But I realize a little sheepishly that I’m more thrilled than they are to see some of my all-time favorite characters from A Christmas Carol come to life in the perfect setting. As Scrooge struggles to elude his famous ghosts, snowflakes sift down on to the brick streets of this historic district named when it was full of rowdy saloons where railroad workers brawled. Now, shops selling antiques, crafts and gifts have overtaken the old buildings and surrounding streets.
I should be searching for gifts. Instead, I find myself following this roving performance. Along with a group of other distracted shoppers, I gravitate to the cluster forming around a regal Father Christmas, wearing green velvet robes and a crown of holly on his flowing, snow-white hair. “You’re supposed to wear a red suit,’’ a little girl huffs indignantly. I agree silently. The distinguished looking gentleman looks a little offended, but smiles and asks the little one what she wants for Christmas. She frowns and looks determinedly at her fur-topped pink boots, no doubt holding out for a more familiar Santa. We adults try not to laugh, and I realize that for a moment anyway, I have forgotten all about that list of gifts I need to buy.
The three-weekend festival finishes this coming weekend (December 12–13, 2009). You’ll also meet characters who might have stepped out of Dickens’ other works. In broad Cockney accents, vendors in slouchy hats and ragged shawls hawk roasted chestnuts and plum pudding. The town crier announces events, as smudge-faced urchins in tattered knee breeches run up and down the street. My favorite, though, is the “put-pocket’’—a bedraggled fellow in a top hat and ragged muffler who tucks tiny gifts INTO unsuspecting visitors’ pockets and shopping bags.
Barbara Morrow has written and edited travel articles for Midwest Living since 1989, including articles about every part of Michigan. Barbara also directs the editorial content and direction of Michigan Travel Ideas, the official Pure Michigan Travel Guide.