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Wednesday, November 22, 2017

A Victorian Christmas Is Celebrated in Dell 1994


(Story moved from the previous Dell, Arkansas website.)
Dell is a small town but the citizen's ideas are anything but small. In the early 1990's, town officials and Garden Club members began lighting Main Street at Christmastime with 1000's of tiny white Christmas lights. In addition, local residents added their own lighting displays. In 1993 the Garden Club raised more than $3000 in a fund drive that helped provide additional lights for city businesses and a window candle for each of the town's 135 homes. A friendly competition began among  local residents as they added more lights and figures to their own individual displays. Each night at dusk a steady stream of cars began making their trek to Dell from Blytheville, Jonesboro, Manila, Leachville, many Missouri towns and all places in between. For hours, line of cars slowly drove up and down each street, admiring the winter wonderland of lights.

      While watching the constant stream of cars one night in 1993, I thought how much fun it would be if the next year our family dressed in costume and greeted visitors with a wave and a smile. I mentioned this to my Mom, Irene Duncan.  " Why not include the town residents in our idea?" Mom decided to present the idea to the Garden Club at their next meeting.  The Garden Club was very enthusiastic and began making plans for Christmas 1994. Everyone in town was invited to participate. Each was responsible for their own costume, using guidelines agreed upon by the Garden Club. A party at the Duncan home was given for everyone who was participating. They were asked to wear their costumes and come enjoy some old fashioned cheer.

List of Costume Possibilities--by D Duncan
    Three nights per week during the two weeks before Christmas, costumed residents walked the streets of Dell, waving and smiling. Most nights they also gathered in front of the Brownlee Store where carols were sung. Local choral groups from schools and churches also sang. Santa was always present, talking to children, giving away candy. Hot apple cider and other refreshments were served inside the store and at the old Dell Gin Company office. The Victorian Christmas was a huge success for all. Record crowds visited us that year as the word spread.
    The following articles appeared in various area newspapers and give more details on the festivities. Photos were taken and supplied by Margarite Brownlee and Curtis Duncan. Take a look and enjoy 1994 again.

From the Blytheville Courier News, December 1994-"Dell citizens to celebrate a Victorian Christmas" by Lynn Maples, CN Reporter
    This Christmas Dell residents hope to take visitors back to a time when spit-polished shoes were in style and hot apple cider was still on menus.
    For the past three years, Dell residents have bedecked their city with a spectrum of lights at Christmas.
    This year they've added something different.
    For three days during the next two weeks, Dell residents will dress in Victorian clothing, walk the city streets caroling and serving hot apple cider to passing guests.
    Anyone who stops by the general store is welcome to join in the festivities, said Irene Duncan, one of the event organizers.
    The Victorian Christmas is an extension of the community's Christmas light display, and this year the community is hoping to garner a larger crowd of visitors.
    Last year the Dell was featured on the KAIT-8 weatherman Terry Wood. The television camera will not be on hand this year, but the lights will still brighten the night skies, Duncan said.
    "By Christmas the entire town will be lit up," she said. "everybody will be dressed in Victorian clothing, and we'll be singing around town and at the square."
    The city's display includes a Santa's Workshop complete with elves and Christmas presents, and the cotton gin will be open for guests to stop in for a cup of hot chocolate. Santa Claus will be at the workshop giving out candy and greeting children.
    What Dell residents are hoping spectators take with them is a part of the past and the true spirit of Christmas, Duncan said.
    "This brings the community together, plus it's fun," she said. "We just want people to know what Dell is doing for Christmas and invite everyone to come out and join us."

 (More photos later)