Mingling with the mannequins: What the Dickens is Charles of England doing in Ohio

As soon as Halloween is over, the Central Ohio town of Cambridge will have a festive Victorian look, not only among its buildings, but also its people, some of whom dress and act like Charles Dickens characters for two months each winter.

Through early January, downtown Cambridge celebrates all things Dickens, from carolers and well-dressed society types to street urchins, Bob Cratchit, and Tiny Tim.

If you stop by, you may also dress the part, borrowing for free some garb at Ye Ole Curiosity Shoppe on Wheeling Avenue and heading outside to mingle with the mannequins, which dot the downtown like extras in a huge performance.

For a sneak peek, here are pictures, taken at a local warehouse, of the many mannequins that soon will be stationed along downtown’s Wheeling Avenue at antique lampposts and benches.

Designed and built by local craftsmen

These Dickens mannequins, more than 150 of them, are life-size characters like you see in department store windows. Their bodies were built by local amateur craftsmen, their faces painted by local artists.

You will recognize characters from Dickens novels – you know, “Great Expectations,” “a Tale of Two Cities,” and “A Christmas Carol.”

Dickens Village is one of the best free shows in Ohio. Each night, light shows illuminate the courthouse. On weekends, local residents dress as Dickens characters, like some of the mannequins stored from year to year in a local warehouse .

The attraction, only in its sixth year, was the dream of a local businessman, Bob Ley, one of many Cambridge residents with a family background in England. Many of the townsfolk emigrated from the island of Guernsey, in the English Channel (Cambridge is in Ohio’s Guernsey County). Ley’s idea was to draw tourists to town for a fun family winter experience.

It’s working. Last year, 74 busloads of travelers joined the Dickens festivities, said Jonett Haverfield, one of the coordinators. She said that work to prepare the village each year is handled by local volunteers.

Dickens Village is easy to locate. Cambridge is near the intersection of Interstates 77 and 70. Festivities are on Cambridge’s main street, Wheeling Avenue, which also is U.S. 40, the old National Road. Information, 800-933-5480 or VisitGuernseyCounty.com.

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