Downtown Wetumpka will step back in time for the fourth Downtown Dickens Christmas.
The event hosted by the Wetumpka Area Chamber of Commerce has grown steadily over the last few years and this year promises to be no different. Especially considering the success of Main Street Wetumpka’s Candy Crawl just a few weeks ago where 6,400 people filled downtown streets for the one night event.
“Given what happened at the candy crawl and we had like nearly 9,000 people at last year’s Dickens Christmas, we are foreseeing a really successful festive event this year. People know we are doing it,” chamber director Shellie Whitfield said. “That was over two nights coming out of a global pandemic. We have posted it to a lot of the [HGTV] Hometown Facebook pages. So we think there will be a lot of people coming in for the event.”
Whitfield said the event is a win for everyone involved and just in time to kickoff the Christmas holiday season Dec. 2-3.
“We are creating this magical Christmas, people are shopping local and local businesses are succeeding,” Whitfield said. “It is exactly what a small town Christmas should be.”
What makes a Downtown Dickens Christmas special is the environment the chamber, businesses and even those attending the event create. Businesses are creating windows and owners and employees are encouraged to dress in a fun Dickens-inspired costume — some complete with top hats.
“We have more people saying they are going to show up in costume,” Whitfield said. “The more people we have show up in costume, the more magical it feels.”
Even the vendors will have wares to match the time period.
“Everything is time period appropriate,” Whitfield said. “We will have kettle corn, fudge, jams, cookies, Christmas ornaments, yarn spinner, wood carvers, nuts, candies, a nut roaster. It will be really good.”
Valley Bank is once again sponsoring Father Christmas in The Alleyway where everyone can take a free photograph and Central Alabama Electric Cooperative is helping take care of other expenses as the title sponsor.
“This isn’t a fundraiser for the chamber,” Whitfield said. “It is meant to be a way for everyone to have a magical Christmas.”
The Makers Market will be in the open restaurant space below The Lofts at Bridge and Hill.
“It will be a true maker's market,” Whitfield said. “Vendors will actually be making things there.”
In the past vendors such as Scent Wizards made candles on the spot.
“The kids just went bananas,” Whitfield said. “Anytime you do something people can watch, like the yarn spinner, it's amazing. Kids don’t see that. They don’t see wood carvers. They don’t see people making things.”
The surroundings will be more magical than in previous years.
“The city has wrapped all the trees in lights,” Whitfield said. “That is huge, making it more magical than ever. Weather permitting we will have a horse drawn carriage, for atmosphere but not for rides. We will have different churches providing music. We have more than double the vendors than we have had before.”
The lighting of the city’s Christmas tree will take place at 6 p.m. Friday Dec. 2
“We had to move it to the courthouse lawn,” Whitfield said. “So many people are trying to attend it.”
Whitfield said the First United Methodist Church of Wetumpka will have a live nativity scene at the courthouse as well. The Elmore County Museum across the street will have its large nativity as well.
The growth of the Dickens Christmas has made a few things easier for Whitfield in organizing the event.
“The first year I was seeking vendors to put in empty buildings so that the town looked full to create a happy Christmas vibe,” Whitfield said. “This year I’m trying to find a place to put the vendors.
“The first year I was reaching out trying to find vendors. Now it's become such a successful event vendors are reaching out to be a part of it. Everyone that has come, wants to come back.
It is so good. We have a lot of new businesses participating. I don’t know if they realize how great it is going to be.”
Whitfield is confident if the weather is good, everyone will have a good time Dec. 2-3 from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Downtown Dickens Christmas.
“This sure to be the best year ever,” Whitfield said. “All of the buildings are full of businesses and everyone will be dressed up, geared up for it.”