The forecast is for snow this weekend – at least in Hernando in the courthouse plaza as the city prepares to kick off its popular Dickensian Christmas Festival.
Visitors will be transported back in time to Charles Dickens’ holiday classic ‘A Christmas Carol’ and the Victorian Era as they do holiday shopping at local businesses, a farmers market, photos with Santa Claus, horse-drawn carriage rides, vintage dances, the arts and crafts and, new this year, an outdoor skating rink.
Hernando’s Community and Economic Development Director Gia Matheny said this was the third year the town has hosted Dickens of a Christmas and the event has continued to grow.
“Last year, over a four hour period, we had at least 4,000 people,” Matheny said. “I imagine we’ll at least double that. It has been a tremendous tourism driver for our city. But it has also been a wonderful way to bring the Christmas spirit to the city and the community. “
Matheny said this year’s Dickens of a Christmas will offer a lot more to see and do. Unlike previous years where the event only lasted four hours, this year’s festivities will take place over two days starting on Friday with the tree being lit at 6 p.m. in partnership with the Chamber of Commerce.
Hernando Mayor Chip Johnson will dress in Victorian costume to greet visitors and read “The Night Before Christmas” to the children after the tree is lit.
The First Regional Library will then show Disney’s “A Christmas Carol” film outdoors. The screen and projector are provided courtesy of the Mississippi National Guard.
And meanwhile, Matheny said they added something extra special this year – an outdoor ice rink. The rink is provided by Artificial Ice Events and is a synthetic surface. It will be located on Panola Street on the south side of the courthouse from 4 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Friday and from 9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Saturday. The cost of skating is $ 10 and the proceeds will go to local nonprofits Krewe of Hernando, First Presbyterian Church Hernando and Hernando Youth Football Association.
“We think it’s a huge addition this year and it will be a lot of fun,” said Matheny. “So while people are watching the movie, there will also be the rink and we should hear the laughter of the people at the rink while watching the movie. It should really be fun.
Saturday’s events start at 9 a.m. Matheny said there would be around 50 vendors in the square, many of them from the popular Farmers Market.
“They will be there all day until 5 pm,” Matheny said. “And our local businesses will be open until that same time. So you can do your Christmas shopping and all the shops will be nicely decorated for the holidays. You can come pick up your favorite farmer’s market items, canned goods and all that good stuff.
Also in the square, the DeSoto Arts Council will feature historic arts and crafts, activities such as door sheds to paint, photos of Santa Claus inside the historic courthouse, letters to Santa, free ornamental decoration, blacksmith, historic farm equipment, War Cannon and storytelling by Dr. Rebecca Jernigan, who will share stories about Mississippi Christmas traditions. Local AERC architect Doug Thornton will also be hosting a free gingerbread house-making event in his office just off the plaza at 342 West Valley Street.
Hicks Convention Rentals & Services provides a stage on Losher and Panola Street where there will be Victorian dancers and a performance by the Hernando High and Middle School Choir.
“We’ll have a lot of people this year wearing Victorian clothing,” Matheny said. “And we encourage anyone with a Victorian outfit to show off their best.”
And on Commerce Street, the DeSoto County Museum will feature a train exhibit, museum tours, and horse-drawn carriage rides, while just up the road, Coffee Central will serve a 3 p.m. afternoon tea. The Hollywood Casino and the 1st Jackpot Casino in Tunica will also have a shuttle to Dickens of a Christmas for their guests this year as well.
Visitors will also be able to board an old-fashioned cart for a tour of the city’s historic homes. Tours depart from Coffee Central at 10:00 am and run until 3:30 pm Tours last approximately 30 minutes and all runners will be required to wear a mask.
“It’s a rule of the state of Mississippi for all public transportation,” Matheny said. “And no food or drink is allowed on that too.”
Matheney said visitors will be able to take free selfies near the courthouse steps in front of a snow-capped Hernando Dickens against a Christmas backdrop.
“We will have a snow machine there with a lot of snow,” said Matheny. “It’s the same snow you see in the Hallmark movies. So it will really look like snow in the photo.
Dickens of a Christmas is sponsored by Principle Toyota Hernando and in part by grants from the Mississippi Hills Heritage Alliance and the Mississippi Development Authority. Mach1 Window Films sponsors the ice rink.
Matheny said Dickens of a Christmas has been a great way to showcase the city’s history and culture and get more people to shop locally.
“We have such a beautiful downtown area and we wanted to see more foot traffic during the holidays and make it a bit more cheerful in the downtown area,” Matheny said. “It will be a really fun event and it just keeps getting bigger. Our companies have been very supportive of this and have really benefited from it. “