Sunday, December 10, 2023
Once a year Franklin goes back to the 19th century and celebrates Christmas Dickens-style. It’s a festival much like the others throughout the year – they close off the five arteries leading into the town center and set up music and performers, craft vendors and food trucks, author signings and games.
But this one comes with a Victorian twist. It is full of performers decked out in full Dickens-Village regalia, Santas in velvety red suits, men in white robes and women in bustled green dresses. Everyone has big wreaths on their heads or holly in their hair. They carry muffs to warm their hands and candles to light their way.
This year the weather did us the favor of being 35 degrees so the snow machine gained a little more credibility.
You may be in the middle of Middle Tennessee and it may only snow a dusting once a year, but for a few hours walking down the street decked out in garlands and Christmas trees, with ladies in their swishing skirts and carolers singing in little clusters, kids playing violins and a blacksmith smelting a cane, you can almost believe you’re living in a different place in a different century. Even the dogs wear little knitted sweaters with jingle bells.
Of course, then you pass by the Smokey Dawggs food truck and a booth full of sweatshirts decorated with cowboy boots and shotguns and you remember where you are. But then you also remember that the pizza truck is there so you make a beeline for the hot-honey-arugula-ricotta pizza that is most of the reason you showed up there in the first place.
We have only been to this particular festival twice. Last year it rained and everything was a bit too soggy to be as much fun. This year the entire festival almost ended up in Kansas but was spared another day.
They ended up closing down early yesterday because of the tornados, which means that everyone in the entire state was there today, and even everyone from every other state. Last year we ran into a woman who came in for the weekend from someplace far, like maybe Oregon, because she wanted to experience a festival “in a Hallmark town like on TV.”
To say it was crowded would be an understatement. They actually set up parking in surrounding lots and bus people in via shuttle because it’s impossible to get within a mile of the town center.
Lucky for us we have friends who live downtown and who have volunteered their driveway whenever we need it. We needed it.
You could be forgiven for thinking that if you’ve seen one festival you’ve seen them all, which is kind of true. Except for the décor, they are pretty much the same. But somehow I can’t get enough of that pizza. Or watching the step dancers. Or gazing lovingly at the hand carved cutting boards or sticking my face in a jar of custom poured cinnamon spice scented candle.
Or the cocktails.
Once we’ve oohhed and aahhed over the all interesting crafts, read the blurbs on the backs of all the new books, applauded the really terrible but charming efforts of some school band or independent musician-wanna-be, we make our way to our favorite bar and check out the latest cocktail menu. I had one today that was called a Slay Ride, made with a burnt sugar whiskey that was so good I had another. Or maybe two others. FINE, I had THREE, ok???
And then right before the festival ends we swing by the kettle corn booth and no matter how many bags they have on the table we always ask them to make ours fresh, and they do, and there is nothing quite like hot kettle corn on a cold evening to make you feel like a kid at Christmas.
I have no pictures of this kettle corn, so you will have to take my word for it. There is never enough time in between getting the bag in my hand and when it’s empty to snap a photo.
Then we walk around and appreciate the calmness of the evening and the lovely lights.
Today we even stopped into the Cork & Cow and quite possibly had another cocktail and maybe we sat there eating our kettle corn and they let us, and maybe possibly I also ordered a mushroom crepe. Oh, you’ve never heard of a mushroom crepe? Poor you!
We met a couple who lives in Franklin, which is actually quite something since these festivals attract so many people from so many places that it’s not often you meet someone who actually lives in the area. I think the locals are too smart to leave their couch craters.
But as is the way of the universe, some things seem destined to be. It turns out this couple also joined the Hillsboro Whiskey Society.
Sometimes leaving your crater is worthwhile.
Between Friday’s event and today, I need a weekend to recover from the weekend, but it was fun. The only problem with fun, besides needing to recover from it, is that you want more of it. So I’ll just have to see what I can queue up next. Assuming I can ever move off this couch again.
Photo: a photo op with some Dickens characters. People line up the same way you might wait to see Santa at the mall. But more fun.