Two decades of Dickens

Charles Dickens and all things Victorian are coming to the community of Garrison, sending everyone and everything back in time some 200 years.

For three weekends, residents and visitors to Garrison will be able to experience life in a quaint English village without having to cross the ocean or find a working time machine.

The Dickens Village Festival will take place Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 29 to Dec. 1; Friday and Saturday, Dec. 6 and 7; and Friday and Saturday, Dec. 13 and 14 in Garrison. There is no cost to attend the festival, but there are little separate, very affordable costs to partake in any of the activities, said McKaila Matteson, director of the Garrison Convention and Visitors’ Bureau.

The play, a musical rendition of “A Christmas Carol,” however, costs $15 and reservations are recommended since seating is limited. Tickets can be reserved by calling 1-800-799-4242 or 701-463-2345 between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, or online at ( Matteson said people should purchase their tickets in advance since some nights will sell out fast.

The Dickens Village Festival features old-fashioned English meals, English high teas, decorated house tours, an English market, street vendors, street urchins, street carolers, a lighted parade on Main Street at dusk and a musical production. There are also rides available on an authentic English double-decker bus as well as carriage rides. Each afternoon there is entertainment and employees at the stores will dress up in clothing styles popular in Victorian England.

New at the festival this year is a pre-paid package deal that organizes a tour of the Dickens Village Festival, offering three types of tour packages. “It takes the guesswork out of planning a Dickens day,” Matteson said. The package deal includes tickets for the afternoon entertainment, a ride on the double-decker “Queen Elizabus,” attendance to the English high tea, the production of the play and $10 in Garrison bucks that can be used at the stores and street vendors. There are extra features with each package as well, depending on which one is selected. Each package is $45 per person. “This is the only way you can pre-purchase tickets for the other activities,” Matteson said. “We’re trying to allow people to plan their visit and see everything.”

Each year, and this will be the 20th year that the Dickens Village Festival has taken place, the town of Garrison draws a huge crowd over the three weekends that the festival is held. “The entire community turns into a Victorian village,” Matteson said. The Dickens Village Festival brings a lot of families to Garrison, she added, and many people have made it part of their Christmas tradition.

The weekend of Thanksgiving is usually the busiest time for the festival since it’s the first weekend, Matteson said. “But we encourage people to come to the second and third weekend because there are new activities. All three are great weekends.”

The Dickens Village Festival brings the community and families together, Matteson said, which is one thing that people like about the event. “It brings them into the Christmas spirit,” she added. “It gives people time to be with their family and do activities that are at the Dickens festival.”

With such a wide variety of activities that take place at the Dickens Village Festival, Matteson said it’s hard to pick one activity that’s more popular than any other. There is so much to do and so many unique things offered, she added. The play could be the most popular, though, Matteson thought. “It’s hometown talent brought to the stage,” she added. “Every little thing (at the Dickens Village Festival) draws a crowd.”

“There is something for everyone,” Matteson said. “The Dickens Village Festival has new twists this year and there are a lot of activities for people to partake in.”