Dickens of a Christmas
Historic Downtown Franklin
Saturday & Sunday, December 14-15, 2013
Dickens of a Christmas brings entertaining weekend to Historic Downtown Franklin

It’s a 29-year holiday tradition in Historic Downtown Franklin on the second weekend in December to travel back in time about 150 years to a Main Street from the time of Charles Dickens, and the tradition continues this year Dec. 14-15, 2013, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. Dickens of a Christmas is a free street festival, is open to the public, and is expected to attract some 50,000 visitors over the weekend.
Presented by Puckett’s Grocery & Restaurant and Alexander Automotive and produced by the Heritage Foundation of Franklin & Williamson County and Downtown Franklin Association, Dickens of a Christmas is a Top 20 event in the Southeast, designated by the Southeastern Tourism Society.
More than 250 volunteers participate in the event as characters from Dickens’ stories, vendors or street performers. Show up any time over the course of the weekend, and you’re sure to meet Ebenezer Scrooge, his unfortunate partner Marley (the ghost in chains), little Tiny Tim Cratchit and his family, and many more, including Father Christmas.
In addition to more than two dozen street performers, there are many scheduled performances throughout the event, including:
City Hall Stage Schedule
10:00 a.m. – Classic Country Christmas – “Marty Crum Band”
11:00 a.m. – Southern Academy of Irish Dance
Noon – West Meade Baptist Church, Decatur, AL
1:00 p.m. – Christmas Brass Choir – “Opry Brass Band”
2:00 p.m. – Franklin High School Choral Group
3:00 p.m. – Harpeth Suzuki Strings
4:00 p.m. – Vintage Vocals

Noon – Smooth Jazz Christmas Classics “Poinsettia”
1:00 p.m. – Harpeth Suzuki Strings
2:00 p.m. – 2:45 p.m. – Franklin High Choral Group
3:00 p.m. – 3:45 p.m. – Williamson County Youth Orchestra
4:00 p.m. – 4:45 p.m. – The Arts Place
5:00 – Town Sing Lead by Jean Thomason & The Vintage Vocals
Five Points Schedule
Noon to 2 p.m. – Clearview Baptist church Handbell Choir
4 p.m. – Franklin High School Chorus
1 p.m.-3 p.m. – Clearview Baptist Church Handbell Choir
4 p.m. – Franklin High School Chorus
Fourth & Main Schedule
1:00 p.m. – Flat Creek Community Contra Dancers under the direction of Ms. Chrissy Davis Camp.
2:30 p.m. – Bell Buckle Morris Dancers under the direction of Miss Anna Claire Camp, featuring authentic Cornish sword and stick dances.
3:30 p.m. – Flat Creek Community Contra Dancers under the direction of Ms. Chrissy Davis Camp.
Other activities include:
• Horse-drawn carriage rides around the Public Square for $2 per person.
• A holiday bazaar arts & crafts area encircles Franklin’s charming Public Square.
• Dancers and street musicians on Main Street throughout the event. Violinists, hand bell choirs, harpists, carolers and even a water harmonica player all add to the entertaining street scene.
• Costumed characters from Dickens’ stories interacting with visitors on the street. Scrooge bellows his “Bah! Humbug” while the Cratchit Family parades the streets with Tiny Tim. Ghosts of Christmas Past and Future make regular appearances. Urchins under the direction of the nefarious Fagin from Dicken’s Oliver pester English Bobbies (who are actually Franklin Police Officers on duty in costume). Father and Mother Christmas delight children.
• Victorian treats abound, from authentic fish ‘n’ chips to turkey legs, roasted nuts, kettle corn, roasted corn, roasted pork, sausages and sugar plums.
• Everyone is invited to join the Town Sing starting at the Public Square at 4:30 p.m. Sunday with candles ($1 donation requested) and song sheets.
Dickens of a Christmas is free and open to the public, presented by The Heritage Foundation of Franklin and Williamson County and its division, the Downtown Franklin Association, which seeks to protect and preserve the architectural, geographic and cultural heritage of Franklin and Williamson County and to promote the ongoing economic revitalization of downtown Franklin in the context of historic preservation.
Getting there: From Interstate 65, take Exit 65 and head west toward Franklin for three miles on Highway 96/Murfreesboro Road/Third Avenue South, which runs into the Public Square at the heart of the festival. Turn right or left at Church Street as you approach the Square to access either of the two free parking garages on Fourth Avenue South or Second Avenue South. Additional on-street free parking is available.

Volunteers Provide Victorian Flavor For Dickens of a Christmas

John Fraser, Historic Franklin Book_smallCome December 14 and 15, festival-goers in downtown Franklin are likely to encounter Tiny Tim and the rest of the Cratchits, Scrooge, Jacob Marley, dozens of Victorian dancers, pickpockets, and the ringmaster of them all, Fagin.

On any other day Fagin answers to the name John Fraser, and for years he has been volunteering his time to recruit and organize the characters who roam the streets and lend much of the Victorian flavor to the annual Dickens of a Christmas festival in Franklin.  Fraser first adopted his alter ego some 25 years ago after playing Fagin in a Pull-Tight Players’ production of Oliver! and, as he put it, inviting himself to show up at Dickens in costume and roam the streets in character.

Now he rounds up many of the characters every year, although working through Fraser is by no means necessary. “If anyone wants to come in character, all they have to do is show up,” said Fraser.  “Think up a character you can be who could interact with people who come to the festival and put together a costume.  For example, come as an old chimney sweep and offer to clean the chimneys of people on the street.  They have to respond to you.  People come to Dickens to be engaged, and that’s the fun part.”  In addition to the volunteers who Fraser organizes, another 200 or more musicians, dancers and performers entertain and engage the public during the event.

Now a Top 20 event in the Southeast, Dickens is one of the Heritage Foundation’s signature events, capturing the essence of historic preservation by showcasing downtown Franklin’s charming Victorian facades.  But it would not be possible without Fraser and the dozens of Heritage Foundation members who joyfully volunteer their time to make our street festivals a success.  In addition to the street characters, more than 100 other Heritage Foundation members will man the Heritage Foundation’s festival headquarters tent during Dickens, check in arts and crafts vendors, assist with carriage rides on the square, brew and sell hot chocolate and spiced cider, sell roasted chestnuts, host the green room for street characters and volunteers, assemble and distribute candles and song sheets for the town sing, and serve as town criers.

“I do this because it’s fun,” said Fraser.  “Over the years this has grown into a huge festival, and it’s fun to not only interact with the public, but also to see the same people come back year after year as performers and musicians.  Now we have people come from all over the world.  I met a man from China who knew about Dickens of a Christmas in Franklin, Tennessee.  And I have to wonder:  How many Christmas cards have I appeared in that I didn’t know anything about?”

If you are interested in volunteering for Dickens of a Christmas or any other Heritage Foundation event, contact Kristy Williams at 615-591-8500, ext. 18, or at

Journal Features Eight-Page Spread On Historic Williamson County Home

Breezeway Heritage Foundation members Skipper and Debbie Carlisle don’t just talk the historic preservation talk; they live it, too.  And their commitment to preservation has earned them a feature in A Primitive Place & Country Journal magazine.

The eight-page spread in the Winter 2013 issue of the magazine discusses both the history of their home, Breezeway, and Debbie’s collection of Southern primitive antiques.  Breezeway, built in 1830 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is Williamson County’s oldest double pen dogtrot home, and has been integrated into the Breezeway subdivision off of Clovercroft Road east of Wilson Pike.  The house had been used as a hunting cabin for years, but had been vacant for more than two decades when it and the land surrounding it was purchased by Bob Parks Realty for development. The Heritage Foundation worked with Bob Parks to paint the exterior of the house and secure it against vandalism while a preservation-minded buyer could be found.  Bob Parks secured historic overlay zoning for the house, while the Heritage Foundation worked with the city’s developer to ensure that the development plan left the historic home surrounded by 30 acres of open space to preserve its context.

After its purchase by the Carlisles in 2011 the house went through a dramatic renovation which included the installation of modern amenities and an addition. The couple’s preservation efforts have been rewarded with the Heritage Foundation’s 2012 Preservation Award and with a Certificate of Merit from the Tennessee Historical Commission.

Their hard work has not gone unnoticed by descendants of the home’s original owner, John Bonapart Herbert, who presented the Carlisles with a hand-stitched quilt made by Temperance Herbert and a portrait of John Green Herbert in his Confederate uniform.  Just the third family to own the home over the course of 183 years, the Carlisles are proving to be worthy stewards of an important piece of Williamson County history.

Subscribe to the magazine here.