Annual Northport Christmas festival brings Dickens classic world to life

The streets of downtown Northport were alive Tuesday with glowing streetlights, falling snow and laughter as the city hosted its 23rd annual holiday festival known as “Dickens Downtown.” Ignoring the evening’s rain, the performers came out in full costume, dressed in Victorian garb with shopkeepers and vendors peddling their wares.

As soon as patrons stepped onto the street, they were surrounded with holiday music and fake snow released from a machine sitting on a second-floor balcony.

Community members, students from local schools and colleges volunteered for the event. Two UA students, Wayne Bass, an MBA sophomore, and Matt McDonald, a senior majoring in management, agreed the event was a success.

“It’s picked up since the rain stopped,” McDonald said, “but yeah, I think it’s cool.”

Bass said he thought students could benefit from volunteering at events like this in the future.

“You can tell it’s a very community-oriented event,” Bass said.

Santa Claus made an appearance at the festival alongside those decked out in Victorian clothes. Tommy Neil, who was dressed as Santa, said events like this bring holiday spirit to the community.

“It brings out the public and the real meaning of Christmas,” Neil said.

Neil said events such as Dickens Downtown are a perfect idea for major holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas. Volunteers get a lot out of working these events as well, Neil said.

Thanks to Robin Greg, Santa’s wife was also in attendance. Greg owns Lily Pads and Baby Bundles on Main Street in Northport. She said Dickens Downtown is an annual event that she has participated in for years.

“It’s a way to give back to the community, and the children love it,” Greg said.

Historic Downtown Merchants Association President Brandon Cooper said even with the rain and bad weather, the event was a big success.

“This is how so many people start their holiday season,” he said. “And even with not very good weather, we still have a very, very nice turn out.”

After 23 years, Cooper said it would continue to be a tradition.

“It’s definitely a group effort to get the shopkeepers together,” Cooper said. “It’s paid for by the merchants out of our pockets with the help of the Friends of Historic Downtown Northport. The money goes to help benefit the Sprayberry [High] School, and we get all of our greenery cut and put out on the street together. We put the bows out together. We put the plaques out together. The city helps immensely for getting the landscaping done. It’s a huge group effort.”

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