Dickens Downtown began in the 1990s, transforming downtown Northport into a locale fit for a live re-enactment of a novel by Charles Dickens. The event draws huge crowds year after year. And that’s exactly the point, according to Carl Adams of Adams Antiques. Adams is a long-time member of the Merchants of Historic Downtown Northport – the group that heads up Dickens Downtown.
“This is community outreach in the spirit of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, giving back to the community,” said Adams. “It has managed still to prevail as a non-retail environment, just a way for the merchants to give back.”
On the first Tuesday night in December, Downtown Northport turns into a scene from the Victorian era, with period outfits, a real English Town Crier, and Father Christmas. A snow machine helps complete the ambiance of the setting. The roads are blocked for traffic, so that visitors can watch the street performances, listen to live music, and wander in and out of the local businesses visiting with old friends and meeting new ones.
“People come because it’s a chance to gather and visit,” Adams said. “I see people that I don’t see but once a year, people I went to high school with. It’s a tradition where people can bring their kids and spend a little time together.”
Northport Mayor Donna Aaron was part of the committee that put this event together for the first time.
“This event brings people to Northport, where everyone can enjoy having things for kids and adults,” said Aaron. “You get a little bit of history, but the selling point is that it is family-friendly. It puts people in the mood for Christmas.”
Aaron reflected on the inaugural Dickens Downtown and how they had the great-great-great-great-great- (“was it five ‘greats’?”) grandson of Charles Dickens come read an excerpt from the inspiring story, wearing period dress, in The Globe restaurant (now Billy’s Sports Grill).
“From then, I was hooked,” Aaron said.
For anyone who has never experienced Dickens Downtown, Aaron said you can “expect to step back in time, rambling around and visiting the merchants, workers in period costumes with goodies and free stuff, just a relaxing fun time.”
This is a kid-friendly, free event for anyone, not just Northport residents. So, bundle up your whole family and take a trip to Victorian England for an evening of fun and fellowship that is sure to get even the Scrooges in the spirit of Christmas.