EBENSBURG - Christmas is coming early to Ebensburg, with the borough's eighth annual Dickens of a Christmas set to kick off Friday.
The weekend will get off to a fun start, with a gingerbread contest for kids starting at 10 a.m. at the Cambria County Historical Society, and the courthouse's noon tree-lighting ceremony.
Danea Koss, Ebensburg's community development director, said there are several events throughout the day, but the real fun begins at 6 p.m., when Mayor Randy Datsko proclaims the start of the Dickens weekend with the light-up ceremony at Kimball park.
Mirror file photo by Gary M. Baranec
Tim Houser and his daughter sell a tree in Penn Eben Park at last year’s Dickens of a Christmas.
From then, "we have a ton of stuff going on," Koss said, including Christmas caroling, complete with cookies and hot chocolate for participants.
There is so much to do, it's impossible to go to everything, she said, including a 7 p.m. hat fashion show hosted by the Hat Ladies of Johnstown at the Ebensburg Cambria Library, and the Johnstown Symphony Community Strings' Victorian-themed concert at the historic Noon Collins Inn.
And at 7:30 p.m., Cresson Lake Playhouse will put on its "A Cresson Lake Christmas" performance at the courthouse.
The next morning, event-goers have three holiday craft fair locations to choose from, with more than 100 vendors total at Holy Name Church, Dauntless Fire Station and Ebensburg's VFW.
One of the neatest events, Koss said, is ice carving, with artists set to begin creating close to two dozen ice sculptures 9 a.m. in Penn Eben Park before the annual parade begins at 11 a.m.
This year's parade theme is "A Dickens Village," with everyone encouraged to dress in Dickens-style costume.
Koss said the Victorian theme isn't overdone for Dickens, but shows in "little touches" that can be seen throughout the weekend.
She pointed to the burning fire cressets in Penn Eben Park, participants who dress up and go caroling and the way the town is decorated for the weekend.
Those details give people the feeling that they're really in "A Christmas Carol," she said.
And, First United Church of Christ will be holding a Welsh cantata at 2 p.m., preceded by a children's violin recital and a performance by the church's bell choir, starting at 1 p.m.
"We try to encourage people to get into the Victorian theme of it," Koss said.
Another big draw on Saturday is Mrs. Buck's Sweet Shoppe, which runs from noon to 3 p.m. Saturday at the Historical Society. Anyone who hasn't had a chance to visit them on North Center Street should try to stop in, Koss said, adding that "it's really a neat, old historic building."
There also are tons of kids activities held throughout the day, including a Scrooge and cookies event and Puppen Meister's "Country Christmas" jamboree at Young Peoples Community Center, and sleigh and carriage rides offered around town from noon to 4 p.m.
In one of the less festive, but most historically accurate events, is the chance for visitors to tour the former Cambria County Jail.
Built just two years after Dickens death and 50 years after his father served a debtors-prison sentence, the old jail serves as a reminder of some of the unhappier themes in his writing.
Saturday's activities will wrap up with the second annual Jingle Run starting at 4 p.m. in Penn Eben Park and an evening bonfire and sled riding at the fairgrounds.
People also are getting geared up for one of the most popular Dickens events, which is back after more than five years on hiatus: holiday home tours.
Koss said four historic homes and two businesses will be opening their doors for self-guided tours Sunday afternoon beginning at 1 p.m.
North Marian Street resident Kathy Inzana had a lot of cleaning and decorating to do starting just after Halloween to prepare for having hundreds of visitors in her home, but she said she "absolutely loves" that the tours are back.
"For me, it's worth every bit of it, because I do have an old Victorian home and I love, love, love showing [it]," she said. "It's really fun."
And to celebrate, Inzana said she's doing something a little different this year.
"I'm hosting a Victorian Christmas wedding," she said. "Everything is decorated in a Victorian wedding theme. Everybody that will come through the house will be guests of the wedding."
Unfortunately, a bride and groom won't be there, she said, but a contemporary dress will be on display, and "I'm prepared to give them a piece of wedding cake
She said visitors have always been respectful, and she never had a scrap of dust to deal with afterward.
"I know they [organizers] have trouble getting people to open their houses ... but the people that come through the houses are very respectful of everything you have."
The last time the tour was held, Inzana said more than 200 people came through her home. She's hoping for more this weekend.
"People really missed it," she said.
While organizers aren't anticipating the kind of crowds that turn out for Wheels & Wings or Potatofest, Koss said Dickens of a Christmas is still a special community event -sand the only one organized through several groups.
"It's not just an Ebensburg Main Street Partnership event," she said: It's the churches, historical society and Kiwanis members, among others.
"It's more spread out. It's the only event that is multiple events over three days," she said. "It's really an event that the entire community gets involved in."
For more information and event costs, visit: www.ebensburgdickens.com.
Mirror Staff Writer Kelly Cernetich is at 946-7520.