By Brian Bearden
McKinney’s three-day “Dickens of a Christmas – Home for the Holidays” celebration has a way of warming up newcomers to the spirit of the city, starting with the annual Christmas tree lighting on Friday night.
“The tradition of Dickens is one of the holiday events that makes McKinney a great place to live,” city councilman Ray Ricchi said. “My kids still remember the lady passing out the mints. I don’t think we have missed it since we have been here.”
Ricchi said a ton of work goes on behind the scenes. McKinney Main Street director Ty Lake, who also leads the McKinney Performing Arts Center, orchestrates the yearly event after Thanksgiving.
“My favorite part of Dickens is seeing smiling faces, camaraderie and just the true feeling of community togetherness,” Lake said. “The tree lighting ceremony always gives me chills and that’s a great feeling. That’s when you know it’s real.”
Assistant Fire Chief Neil Howard enjoys taking in the festivities when the old-fashioned holiday and family festival draws a crowd to downtown, where Dickens fans will be rolling in for the 32nd annual Dickens of a Christmas that comes complete with horse drawn carriages, strolling carolers, Santa Claus, activities for all ages, music and food.
“It’s all good,” said city director of planning Michael Quint.
Downtown will show off its more than 100 boutiques, art galleries, bookstores, apparel, gifts, exquisite antiques, restaurants, and entertainment Nov. 23-25.
“My favorite memories of Dickens include the tree lighting ceremony as so many residents gather around the tree downtown (now in Mitchell Park) and the music,” Mayor Brian Loughmiller said. “I also enjoy when merchants dress in clothes that are historically significant to Charles Dickens’ Christmas Carol. … I also participate in the Believe run each year and in the Great Santa Chase with the kids, and that is always fun.”
Dickens begins with the lighting of the city of McKinney’s Christmas Tree ceremony at 6:15 p.m. Friday, followed by candlelight shopping until 8 p.m.
“I love watching the tree lighting and the gleam on children’s faces on a cold crisp evening,” said Historic Preservation Officer Guy R. Giersch.
City councilman Roger D. Harris said, “I like seeing people having a good time and socializing in our downtown historic square. As we recently learned from Money Magazine, there are so many unique aspects of McKinney that together make us the second best place to live in the U.S. However, many people don’t see the socializing and popularity of the events we have in the city.
“We really have the best group of people living in McKinney one could ever hope for,” Harris said. “Everywhere you look, there are individuals working at making something special. Our citizens work tirelessly to allow others to experience a totally unique community.”
Mayor Loughmiller said historically funds received by Main Street from Oktoberfest have helped offset costs associated with Dickens of a Christmas. Main Street events are funded each year through a combination of private sponsorship for the event and Mainstreet funds earned through the various events throughout the year.
“This year, due to bad weather, the Okoberfest revenues were down significantly,” Loughmiller said. “As a result, we have had to reduce the budget for Dickens this year. Despite the reduction in budget, I still believe that the weekend event will be meaningful and worthwhile as we start with the Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony, traditional music on the square, visits with Santa Claus, the Ski Hill sponsored by the Lions Club and many other activities.”
McKinney Community Center supervisor Trish Yanes said the city will again pull off an event that creates lasting memories.
“Downtown McKinney is always so festive and fun!,” Yanes said. “A great place to experience; especially with our guests from out of town.