Why do reindeer wear bells? Because their horns don't work. Seasonal humor, but one of Father Christmas's best as he joshed with shy children at the Dickens Festival at the Salt Palace.
Designed with a Charles Dickens theme, there are 92 booths arranged and decorated as an English village. In its seventh year, the festival runs through next Saturday. Hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. The event is closed Sunday."We want to make it a family Christmas experience," said organizer Vickie Nelson. She and partner Kathie Thayne try to offer the public "the flavor of Christmas" with traditional tastes, smells and sights.
Over 6,000 children will appear in the entertainment, said Nelson, and there are strolling carolers on "streets" with names like "Fezziwig Way" and "Ebeneezer Street."
The exhibitors come from all over the United States, Nelson said. They wear old fashioned costumes and speak with recently acquired British accents.
There are shops offering everything from brass rubbings to small people made of rocks and painted to resemble certain local celebrities.
Sondra Roberts, of Roberts Woodcarving, builds wooden rocking horses from scratch. Each horse takes 200 to 300 hours, she said, and boasts a real horse-hair mane and tail and a brass bit and stirrups imported from England. The horse on display is priced at $1,400.
Other booths show original and print artwork, stained glass, jewelry, sweat shirts, Christmas ornaments and toys.
The "Country Store" booth is run by Hogle Zoo as a fund-raiser, said organizer Lori McDougal. It has games for children and some small animals, including a noisy cockatoo.
Traditional Christmas food is available, including hot wassail and roasted chestnuts. Children can visit and have their picture taken with Father Christmas, who is extremely jolly and grows his own long, white beard.
Christina Sweetland, age 3, had her picture taken with a friendly English bobby. Her mother, Barbara said the festival was "very good" this year. Christina was too busy unwrapping a candy cane to comment.