Christmas on Main Street
Wellsboro’s Dickens of Christmas, a wildly popular Victorian-costumed street festival that brings thousands of holiday shoppers to town every year on the first weekend of December, has been going on for over three decades. But over the years, Ellen Dunham Bryant, president of the Penn Wells Hotel, and her sister, Ann Dunham Rawson, VP of sales and merchandising at the family’s Dunham’s Department Store, found themselves fielding the same question over and over again from happy shoppers and visitors: is there anything else after this weekend? Any more Christmas events? The town Christmas trees, marching down the center of the boulevard, still sparkled; the wreaths still hung fresh and bright from the gaslights. Ann and Ellen and Ellen’s husband Shawn (CEO of the hotel) would talk about it around the dining room table. Was there any way to extend that magical feeling that the town seemed so perfect at evoking, that feeling of a Christmas village? This is, after all, the Town at Saved Christmas, the town that, at the beginning of World War II, started producing Christmas bulbs when Germany shut down their exports.
And so, last year, Ann and Ellen went up and down Main Street, asking what the other retailers thought. In this Amazon Era, what could they do to extend the local shopping season? The seeds of those questions immediately sprouted into a grassroots answer. With no budget—and no time to speak of—Main Street merchants responded with special events and offerings. Santa was enticed to make an appearance at the Deane Center for the Performing Arts. The Arcadia screened a dollar Christmas movie.
And this year, the weekend of December 9, they are doing it again—and then some. Stores will be open late on Friday night, and Hamilton-Gibson Productions will bring A Fezziwig Christmas to the Gallery of the Warehouse Theatre for the first of two nights and The Fifth Season will bring Santa to the Deane Center lobby for photos. On Saturday the Wellsboro Men’s Chorus will sing at 1:30 p.m. in that same lobby, a live Nativity will appear on their side lawn from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m, and Tony’s Trolley will carry passengers to stops around town for free. The dollar holiday movie will be back at the Arcadia (this year it’s Home Alone). Stores all around town will be offering holiday surprises—like the factory tours at Highland Chocolates and the plush ornament give-away at The Farmer’s Daughters—along with, of course, all the ease and pleasure of shopping local. In honor of our place in holiday history, our famous Christmas ornaments (like the flag, above, on permanent display in the Penn Wells lobby) will grace shops up and down the town. Ten stamps on a five-dollar passport from merchants with ornaments on display gets you a chance to win one of three Wellsboro shopping sprees. Santa himself, at the brunch at the Penn Wells on Sunday morning, will pull the winning passports. The weekend closes with a Messiah Community Sing at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. For more information and a complete schedule go to www.wellsborochristmasonmainstreet.com.