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Dickens Christmas Celebrates 15th Anniversary

It began as a simple thank-you from village merchants to the Skaneateles community. Now, 15 years later, Dickens Christmas provides cherished holiday memories for thousands of families regionally and nationally.

Dickens Christmas—which opens the Friday after Thanksgiving and runs noon to 4 p.m. every weekend until Christmas—is improvisational street theater. Costumed Victorian characters wander the village streets, interacting with each other and with the public.

Horse-drawn carriage rides, carolers, concerts, chestnuts roasting on an open fire, refreshments, children’s activities, free costume rentals, locals night—all were there from the start and continue, in expanded form, as attractions today.

Dickens Christmas was the brainchild of Karen Foltz, owner of Pomodoro and Pomodoro Too, who had seen a similar production in Minnesota and—as a board member of the Skaneateles Area Chamber of Commerce—was looking for ways to boost business. “A lot of people now bring their family and friends—it’s a highlight of their holidays,” says Foltz, who serves as co-chair of the Dickens Christmas Committee. She notes the program began as “a fun little thing to do.”

Dickens Christmas was launched in 1993 under the direction of two area event planners—Lorraine Smoral and Gloria Romeo.  They were followed by Skaneateles resident Ted Davenport, who was followed by Wrynkle in Time Productions, of Rochester. Since 2001, the program has been produced by Scarlett Rat Entertainment, under the direction of Jim Greene (a.k.a. Mr. Dickens), of Dryden, N.Y.

With Scarlett Rat came the premise for the production: In 1842, Charles Dickens and Queen Victoria visit Skaneateles. Based on the characters they meet on village streets—Ebenezer Scrooge, Tiny Tim, Jacob Marley—Dickens writes “A Christmas Carol” upon his return to London.

Over the years, the cast has grown from about 30 to 50 (more than half of whom are professional, paid actors), and the level of professionalism has greatly increased, as has the number of musical and theatrical offerings. The number of local residents participating remains an important part of the show.

Greene jokes that, as producer, he hires talented people and takes all the credit. But he says much of the program’s current success is due to the work of artistic director Maria Wechsler, whom he describes as “brilliant,” and musical director Kelly Stallard, who “has a gift for empowering everyone to sing with their own voice.”

Many of the professional actors are affiliated with the Sterling Renaissance Festival, which is where Greene was working in 1999 when he first took part in Dickens Christmas (playing Emerson Wales, the Rat Catcher). About 90 percent of the cast returns each year. “There’s a lot of love there,” says Greene, whose wife and children have all been a part of the production. “It’s a wonderful way to share the holiday season.”

One constant over the years has been Onondaga Hill resident Bob Krigbaum in the role of Scrooge.

“People get a kick out of my asking the shopkeepers for rent,” Krigbaum says. “I have a ball with it. Once I go into a store, it’s like magnetism. I have them laughing out loud.

“To be Scrooge, you have to be mean. It’s tough to be mean,” he says. “You learn to think real quick, to have an answer for whatever comes your way. Sometimes, people’s reactions are different than what you’d expect.”

Even after 15 years, Krigbaum has no difficulty keeping the character fresh. “The people you interact with help you do that,” he says. “Every time I come out here, it’s the first time.”

Krigbaum’s portrayal of Scrooge is drawn from three movies: “A Christmas Carol” (1951), “Scrooge” (1970) and “The Muppet Christmas Carol” (1992). According to Krigbaum, that makes the character—in turns—serious, funny and musical.

Krigbaum, who is a full-time professional actor with a degree in theater, spends the season playing not only Scrooge, but also Santa Claus (at Burnet Park). A man of many talents, he also is a professional clown, mime, World War II re-enactor and local TV personality.

Both Krigbaum and Greene recall having posed for hundreds of holiday photos. “When people ask to take my picture, I tell them, ‘It will cost you a shady penny,’ and they’ll give me one,” Krigbaum says.

“It’s been a real joy to share this work with my family,” says Greene. “Do I have a favorite moment? No. That’s like asking if I have a favorite child. But there’s been a lot of funny stuff, touching stuff, over the years.”

One of the most emotional moments for him, Greene says, was when he presented a check to the Skaneateles Fire Department in 2001, following 9/11.

As for the funny stuff, Greene says: “My job is to make people laugh all day. I help people create memories with their families. I’m pretty lucky to have this be my work.”

The real Mr. Dickens couldn’t have said it better.


Posted: Tuesday, November 11th, 2008 @ 11:49 am by Curt
Filed under: Blog Skaneateles
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Creekside Books & Coffee Presents:
Saturday November 8, 2008 at 1 PM

[Skaneateles, NY]  Creekside Books & Coffee, an independent bookstore and coffeehouse in Skaneateles, is pleased to announce its fourth annual local author day celebration.  Authors include, Dan Roche, Matthew Dunn, Thomas Phillips, Bob Molinari, Rachael Ikins, Barbara Florance and Norman O. Keim. Authors will spend 15 minutes each presenting their work. Following the presentations, enjoy refreshments and time to linger, chat with the authors and get books signed.

“Join us for our fourth annual Local Author Day venue.  It always proves to be a spectacular overview of amazing local talent,” says Erika Davis, owner of Creekside Books and Coffee.  “These people never fail to impress me and their audiences.  Central New York is home to a wide variety of  incredibly talented and giving individuals.” (more…)

Posted: Friday, October 24th, 2008 @ 10:49 am by Curt
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Recently we spent an afternoon in Skaneateles, New York. The little village of Skaneateles is nestled on the northern end of Skaneateles Lake which is one of the five largest New York Finger Lakes.Welcome Finger Lakes Living at http://www.fingerlakesliving360.com/ which is a collection of articles from a family who lives here in the Finger Lakes Region o Central New York and loves it.

They write…

Recently we spent an afternoon in Skaneateles, New York. The little village of Skaneateles is nestled on the northern end of Skaneateles Lake which is one of the five largest New York Finger Lakes. This beautiful finger lake is surrounded by country estates which are set back from the water by large gently sloping landscaped lawns.


And have written a book: “Last of the Family Farms”. See for your self at http://www.amazon.com/Last-Family-Farms-James-Ph-D/dp/1419694995/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1220313248&sr=1-1


Posted: Friday, September 26th, 2008 @ 10:08 am by Curt
Filed under: Blog Skaneateles
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Hilltop Restaurant and Cedar House Bowling Center

Hello from the Hilltop Restaurant and Cedar House Bowling Center,
      Comedy Night is here once again!  Friday September 26, 2008 Mike Dambra (headliner) and two special guests will be entertaining us with their hilarious and outrageous comedic talents.  The show will take place in the bowling center with a full bar available and cocktail waitresses who will be around to fill your orders so will won’t have to miss a minute of the fun!  Why let the party end there?!  Feel free to dance the night away with music immediately following by DJ Barry.  Show tickets are $8 advanced sale and $10 at door.  Show starts at 7:30pm
Hey, why not enjoy dinner before the show. Bring this mailer with you on Sept. 26 and receive 20% off your bill at Hilltop Restaurant.                           (Offer not valid on take out orders. Must be used on 9/26/08 between the hours of 4pm – 8pm. Not to be combined with any other offers) 

Hilltop Restaurant
813 W Genesee Street Rd
Skaneateles, NY 13152
(315) 685-0016

Posted: Thursday, September 18th, 2008 @ 10:24 am by Curt
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Skaneateles resident Buzz Shaw leadership videos available on website
Buzz Shaw leadership videos available on website

Effective leaders are adept at resolving conflicts and managing work groups.

If you’d like to hone your skills in either of these areas, check out the new videos available on the website of Skaneateles resident Kenneth A. “Buzz” Shaw, chancellor emeritus of Syracuse University. They can be found at http://whitman.syr.edu/shaw.

“These are two of the most important skills to learn—no leader can be effective without them,” says Shaw, who has spent more than 30 years studying, practicing and writing about leadership. Shaw is now a University Professor at SU and teaches leadership to both undergraduate and graduate students.

The videos, which are unrehearsed and unedited, contain scenarios acted out by Shaw’s graduate students.

In the conflict resolution videos, Shaw outlines a four-step approach to conflict resolution and introduces six conflicts:

• Two graphic artists working in adjoining cubicles meet with their supervisor to discuss one’s playing of loud reggae music, which the other finds distracting.

• An advertising professional has been offered the job of his dreams in Chicago. His partner loves her current job and doesn’t want to relocate.

 • Members of a newspaper’s editorial board reach an impasse over whether to publish a controversial cartoon.

• A college student home on break negotiates with her parents to lift her curfew.

• A salesperson, who believes he is making less than his colleagues, asks his boss for a raise.

• Two roommates—one pre-med, the other a partyer—meet with their residence hall supervisor to discuss their conflicting needs.

In the three mock group videos:

• Group members get acquainted, review their class assignment, agree on ground rules for future meetings and identify a process to select their project.

• A project has been chosen, and members of the team have presented their plans prior to the meeting. At the meeting, conflicts arise over deadlines, the quality of work completed and uncertainty about what’s required.

• The group brainstorms ideas for a marketing plan.

The videos are a companion to the 2009 supplement to “The Intentional Leader” due out Dec. 1 from Syracuse University Press. “The Intentional Leader,” which is often used as a college text, has sold more than 2,200 copies since its publication in 2005. (more…)

Posted: Thursday, September 11th, 2008 @ 11:17 am by Curt
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