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Dickens Festival returns to downtown Plano
The Dickens Festival in downtown historic Plano has become something of a local tradition in its 34 years of existence.
"It's almost like three generations or more that come in to see this, because the grandparents will come in and say 'Oh, we used to come here when we were younger,' and they brought their kids, and now their kids are bringing their kids," said Jacque Vargas, event coordinator for the city of Plano Parks and Recreation Department. "You see all that, and people look forward to it. We have a lot of history that comes with that night."
The festival will return Nov. 30 with the usual attractions Planoites have come to love and a brand-new, 45-foot Christmas tree, which is double the size of the one used in prior years.
"We have anywhere from 4,000 people or more, and with all the crowds, it just gets bigger and bigger," Vargas said. "We decided we needed to have something [that's] just more of a statement."
Mayor Phil Dyer -- accompanied by the Plano Community Band -- will kick off the event, which starts at 6 p.m., with a tree-lighting ceremony.
"He usually welcomes the audience with a small speech and does a countdown for the tree lighting," Vargas said. "The band kind of participates in that, and they do the countdown and the lights go on and everybody's hollering and clapping, and the music starts. It's just really, really nice."
Other attractions include carolers on three separate stages, mini-trackless train rides conducted by Interurban Railway Museum staff in period costume and vendors from Downtown Plano and beyond offering products ranging from homemade candles to hand-made local furniture.
"We've got some school entertainment, plus we've got choirs," Vargas said. "Some of the local churches are participating. We have some of the local ballet companies coming out doing some ballet performances on our big stage, so it's going to be really nice. Hopefully the weather will be comfortable."
The event lives up to its name thanks to its historic setting, with cobblestone streets, free horse-drawn carriage rides and festive participants who come dressed in period clothing, Vargas said.
"They're walking up and down the street just talking to people, and it kind of adds to the feel of an old-fashioned type of Christmas," she said. "... The buildings are old and historic, and it just adds to the ambiance."
The event will be centered around Haggard Park, with large sections of K Avenue and 15th Street closed to traffic to accommodate pedestrians. A Santa Claus house will be at J Avenue, where children can catch a glimpse of Saint Nick, Mrs. Claus and Santa's elves.
"There's a line for that all the way to about 9 o'clock at night, just to get in to see Santa," Vargas said.
The event has seen plenty of growth since its rollout in 1978, with the addition of the DART rail and downtown revitalization making parking at the festival easier than ever, said Karen Williams, another event coordinator with the city's parks department.
"Plano was a much smaller community," Williams said of the festival's origins. "There were a lot of events like this, and concerts in the park and things like that the city put on. It being a small town, we didn't have the large number of businesses or nonprofits in the city at that time that were holding events like we have nowadays."
The tree will officially be lit at 7 p.m. Haggard Park is at 901 E. 15th St.
"It's a community event," Williams said. "It's something just to focus family and the community during the holidays. It's an enjoyable evening. [You can] come out with the kids and have a free event to go to."