Dickens Village Festival won’t happen in 2020

Another of Carlyle’s big events for the year has been scrubbed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The organizers of the Dickens Village Festival announced earlier this week that they have had to cancel the popular community event, which attracts large crowds of people from both inside and outside the Carlyle region.

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Shelley Slkyhuis, who is the chairperson of the Dickens Village event committee, said town council thought this was the best decision. A couple of festival committee members had been talking about what they could do this year amidst the pandemic. They knew they couldn’t have the full event because of crowd restrictions.

“Could we do something partial, like maybe a parade or maybe have some food vendors and stuff? And then once we found out the town decided to cancel because of the COVID restrictions … it was a little bit of a letdown but it was probably the best thing to do,” Slykhuis said. “If we couldn’t do a full-fledged festival, then maybe our hearts wouldn’t be in it.”

With the spike in cases that’s happening elsewhere in the country, and the speculation of a second wave, the committee and the town council don’t want people to become sick because they decided to press ahead with the festival.

The spring and fall thrift sales, which are the top fundraisers to pay for the festival’s activities, had to be cancelled already due to COVID. The spring sale would have been in May and the fall sale was slated for the first week in October.

“I realized early on that we wouldn’t be able to have the fall sale,” said Slykhuis.

These sales will have second-hand items, such as clothes, small furniture, appliances, books, puzzles, bedding and other merchandise, donated by people in the community.

“That’s their contribution towards helping to pay for most of the expenses for the festival, because … we pay for our advertising, we pay for most of the entertainment at the Fezziwig’s Pub, the harpist at the High Tea, decorations, all of it comes out of the funds that we raise at the thrift sales,” said Slykhuis.

The committee will still decorate the planters on Main Street and their Victorian Park will be decorated for Christmas. They hope to have the decorating competition among the town’s residents and businesses, so that the community can still look festive.

She noted that in most years, the weather would pose the greatest challenge to the festival. There have been years in which the festival has been held with snow falling, or amid frigid temperatures.

Many organizations and businesses have benefitted from the festival’s success as well.

The organizers are hopeful that 2021 will allow them to have their spring and fall thrift sales, plus their 18th Dickens Festival in December.

Slykhuis reminds people to keep their chin up and stay safe.

“People are getting complacent, and people are thinking this is dire straits with the economy and all of this COVID stuff. It’s just another challenge that we’ve been given and we’re working through it, and hopefully we find an end to this tunnel of COVID, that we can go and enjoy things to the fullest.” 

© Copyright Estevan Mercury

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