For the Main Street Merchants of Historic Medford, planning the annual Dickens Festival has essentially come full circle.
It started in the 1990s as a multi-day event sponsored by the merchants, formerly known as the Main Street Village Association.
“Its purpose was to announce the official start of the holiday shopping season promoting shop local,” explained Abbie Galie, organizing chair of the festival and vice president of the Main Street Merchants.
“It was a nice holiday community event.”
From there, the festival changed hands a few times, including from the merchants to the Rotary. It was reinvented in 2019 when it came back to the merchants.
“We have brought in a lot more entertainment,” Galie said, noting all the entertainment is free to the public. “It’s our Merry Christmas to Medford and surrounding communities for supporting us.
“The festival has gotten a lot of reputation,” she added, “and it’s a way we can showcase our businesses and remind people to shop local.”
Galie said during one of the festivals, she overheard someone say, “Oh my God, it looks like straight out of a Hallmark movie.” And that compliment pretty much sums things up: The festival has long brought holiday cheer to the heart of Medford, and it will do so again on Saturday, Dec. 2, from 4:30 to 9 p.m., on Main Street.
“Main Street is 175 years old and was created in that Victorian era, that Dickens ‘A Christmas Carol’ era,” Gallie explained, hence people will be dressed in period clothing of the time.
The festival, which is presented by The Main Street Merchants of Historic Medford along with SJS Title, draws visitors from across New Jersey and Philadelphia with its carolers and the aroma of holiday treats wafting from local vendors. It kicks off with a parade featuring town officials and residents dressed in authentic Dickensian attire. Santa arrives in style at the town gazebo via a horse-drawn carriage, and is accompanied by Golden Ticket winners for the tree lighting.
“Elves” will pass out candy canes to children who will let Santa know their holiday wishes throughout the evening.
“We also have the Grinch, Elf on the Shelf, the Sugar Plum fairy … it’s a Christmas bonanza,” Galie enthused, adding there will also be stilt walkers, magicians, LED dancers and horse and carriage rides.
The Village Carolers will perform at the festival and there will be lively comedic performances of “A Christmas Carol,” by Pirates of Fortune’s Follies. Main Street will feature handmade crafts, vintage treasures and items from local shops. More than 100 juried artisans will offer handcrafted items for sale.
The sponsoring merchants also work with local churches, including Medford United Methodist, which will feature live Nativity reenactments. The historic Haines/Tomlinson house – recently acquired by Medford Historical Society – will be open to the public.
The Main Street Merchants are a group of local businesses committed to the revitalization and celebration of Medford’s historic downtown. Eight businesses sit on its board, including Galie, owner of Lower Forge Brewery and Destination Medford; President Alex Breaux, of Wonder World Toys and Baby Boutique; Recording Secretary Lesha Moore, of Lesha Studios and Elm Gallery; Social Secretary Dallas Taylor, of Pinecone Trading Company; Treasurer Angela Cocivera, of Girlfriends on Main; and board members Susan Drummond, of The Center, Life in Balance, and Craig Coccaro of Game on Arcade.