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Dickens Village Festival to fill Carlyle with magic first weekend of December

For two days, Carlyle will transform into an old-time Victorian village, filled with magic and Christmas spirit.
Every year, Carlyle’s Dickens Village Festival turns the town into a picturesque and fairy tale community.

ESTEVAN — The Dickens Village Festival is returning to Carlyle on Dec. 2 and 3.

For two days, the town will transform into an old-time Victorian village, filled with magic and Christmas spirit.

During the weekend, Fezziwig’s Pub will offer live entertainment and good cheer. An incredible lighted parade will occur in the evening on both Dec. 2 and 3. Other festival activities include a high tea, an English market and a Festival of Trees. Many of Carlyle's retailers will offer special deals over the weekend and food carts with delicious treats will line Main Street.

A highlight of the festival is the Twenty-Three Scrooge Doo Christmas play put on by the Cornerstone Theatre Inc. The performances will take place on Dec. 2 and 3 at 7:30 p.m., and on Dec. 4 at 2 p.m. at the Carlyle Memorial Hall. The organizers also expect to have a dress rehearsal the Wednesday before the weekend of the show.

This year's production is set in the roaring ’20s – Prohibition Era. Ebeneezer Scrooge is the owner of Scrooge & Marley's Speakeasy. In a hostile takeover, he moves in on the Cratchit & Son Speakeasy, which is across the street. He will keep Bob Cratchit in place for a brief period until he can get everything set up, at which time he is going to fire Bob.

Tickets for the play are to be purchased in advance through Fengche Flowers or by phone at 306-453-0222.

Shelley Slykhuis, the chairperson of the festival committee, said the organizers are gearing up, going through decorations, looking for last-minute sponsors for the activities and getting ready to transform the community for the 19th edition of the festival.

"The week leading up to Dickens will be our busiest week of getting all decorations done, putting everything in place, putting cards out for vendors and then just gearing up for the weekend," Slykhuis said.

Carlyle had to skip 2020, and in 2021 they had a scaled-back festival, so the 2022 event being almost back to normal promises to bring traditional joy to the community. Slykhuis noted that there will be only one big difference – they won't have turkey legs, which were really popular with guests before.

Unfortunately, due to shortages, they weren't able to get the supplies this year, but there will be a lot of other Dickens-style and traditional food options available throughout the days of the festival.

On the other hand, several activities such as high tea and the Chowder Shack will make a return this year.

The goal of the Dickens Village Festival is to showcase Carlyle and all the great amenities the town has so that people would come back again. Slykhuis said they get a lot of support from within the community, including volunteers and local businesses, and a lot of interest from people in the area.

"It showcases the area, it puts people in the Christmas spirit, and with the many organizations that benefit from the Dickens weekend, it's still popular," Slykhuis said. "I think because of the lighted parade, because of the play there on the evenings, it just brings it all together. And people always enjoy those things. It just gets us into the Christmas spirit."

There are about 17 different groups that benefit financially from the festival, and Slykhuis said they are glad to accept anyone willing to participate, as long as there are no doubles.

To help cover the expenses for the Carlyle Dickens Village Festival, every year organizers run two thrift sales – one in May and another in October. Slykhuis said the latest one was pretty popular with people. 

Usually, there are up to 800 people signing the Carlyle Dickens Village Festival guestbook at the information booth at the hall every year, and Slykhuis said that's about what they expect this time.

"We've had anywhere between 500-800 people sign that guest book over two days ... Some are local people and a lot of visitors, but a lot of people don't sign it," Slykhuis explained. "So we're [expecting] around 700-800 people, which is a good turnout because it becomes a very busy weekend.

"Very busy, but very enjoyable. And it gets everyone in the Christmas spirit early on … People are geared into it the first weekend in December and then continue on."