Places to go and things to see by Gypsy Bev

Catch the Spirit of Christmas! Step back in time and visit the Dickens Victorian Village in downtown Cambridge, Ohio from November thru January 8, 2012. As you walk the streets, you will be greeted by volunteers in Victorian dress, sometimes entertained by strolling musicians, and on the weekends can see the lighted carriages giving visitors a relaxing ride.  It is a friendly town where you feel welcome and hear ” Merry Christmas” quite often.

Nearly two hundred life sized mannequins can be found either on the main street, Wheeling Avenue, or in close by businesses and towns. Let’s meet a few of the mannequins, so you can hear their stories of how they came to be part of the Dickens experience.

“Father Christmas” was one of the first characters assembled back in 2005 when local businessman, Bob Ley and his wife Sue were inspired on a trip to Oglebay Park to bring visitors to their town for a winter vacation.  Bob and Sue discussed several ideas but the decision was finally made when Sue suggested an English Christmas theme would be a good choice. Since they lived in Cambridge with Victorian architecture, street lamps, and even benches along the street, English roots ran deep. Thus blossomed the idea of using a theme developed from Charles Dickens’ Christmas Carol. Today Father Christmas stands on the courthouse square greeting cars and buses from three directions. In his bright green cloak of Victorian times, Father Christmas typifies the spirit of good cheer at Christmastime… and you will definitely find lots of good cheer at Dickens Victorian Village.

“Glass Blower at Work” symbolizes the rich heritage in the Cambridge area of artisans who produced quality hand made glass and is a special favorite since my father was a glass blower at Cambridge Glass Co. This was a major employer in the area from 1902-1958 and their glassware is a collector’s item today. A frequent bus stop during tours of the city includes the National Museum of Cambridge Glass where you can still see samples of the beautiful etchings and unique designs, which made these glass creations very fashionable to use for a special occasion. Today descendants of former Cambridge Glass workers still have a few small shops in the area. Boyd Crystal Art Glass, Mosser Glass, and Variety Glass all continue to produce handmade pieces today.

Ye Olde Curiosity Shoppe is headquarters of Dickens Welcome Center and here you are greeted by “The Shopkeeper,” and quite often beside her you will find the lady who it was created to resemble after she won the first Picture Your Face Raffle. Visitors sometimes say, “Is she real, or is she a mannequin?” Raffle tickets are sold each year and the winners become mannequins in the future.   The Welcome Center’s Imagination Station provides an opportunity for visitors to try on Victorian wear. Then they can have their pictures taken with the beautiful Christmas tree, Charles Dickens, or the new addition this year of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge mannequins, which resemble Prince William and Kate. This is fun for young and old alike. Here you will also find many unusual Christmas gifts and ideas.

Not all of the mannequins are downtown. In neighboring Byesville, the “Coal Miners” can be found under the station roof of the Byesville Scenic Railway. This is another popular destination with its “Spirit of Christmas” train, which follows a trail over abandoned mines. While on board, men dressed as miners tell stories of days when coal mining was king in this area.  To remember all those who worked in the mines, a statue, “Coal Miners Memorial”, is in the planning stages and will be the only statue to honor coal miners in the state of Ohio. The mines are out of sight, the tipples gone, but the miners are still in the minds and hearts of families and friends.

When evening falls, everyone heads to the Cambridge Courthouse for a spectacular light show. Christmas music and the movement of the lights on the courthouse are synchronized perfectly and enjoyed by all. The display is computer controlled with 30,000 lights and 364 electrical circuits. Four different light shows entertain the packed courthouse square with traditional Christmas songs as well as children’s and contemporary. Add a little snow and it’s a perfect evening!

Introductions have been made to a few mannequins just to get your curiosity aroused, but you need to tour the area to see which one might be your favorite. Dickens Victorian Village welcomes individuals and tour buses to experience the special feeling of Christmas that lives in downtown Cambridge, Ohio.

As one recent visitor remarked, “If you don’t have the Spirit of Christmas when you come here, you certainly should have it when you leave.”

Dickens Victorian Village is located in downtown Cambridge, Ohio, which is just northwest of the intersection of I-70 and I-77. Come spend the day or stay the night, and catch the Spirit of Christmas.

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