Owatonna Arts Center brings back Fezziwig's feast for the holidays

The Owatonna Arts Center is inviting the public to join in a trip to Christmas past with a Fezziwig party Dec. 8.

The celebration is named after Mr. Fezziwig, the first boss of a young Ebenezer Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol.” In the Dickensian tale, Fezziwig was noted for throwing lavish holiday celebrations, one of which Scrooge is returned to while being led by the Ghost of Christmas Past.

On Dec. 8, volunteers will be dressed in Victorian garb, several carolers will offer songs throughout the evening, and wassail — a holiday drink traditionally enjoyed during celebrations of Christmas Eve and/or Twelfth Night — will be served, said Patti Braasch-Turi, a member of the OAC’s promotions committee.

“There will be one spiked and one not spiked,” she said.

Wine will also be served with dinner, which starts at 7 p.m., she said. The evening kicks off with hors d’oeuvres and caroling at 6:30 p.m., and dinner — catered by Hy-Vee — will feature pork medallions, “a surprise potato,” and cabbage salad.

Tickets are available at Kottke Jewelers and the OAC, Braasch-Turi said. Tickets are $60, but a portion of that is tax-deductible, since this is a charitable endeavor.

“The arts center gets me going,” Braasch-Turi added. “I love it.”

The first Fezziwig dinner was conducted at the OAC a handful of years ago, the brainchild of Sharon Stark, who at the time worked at the arts center, Stark said.

“We were throwing out ideas for a special holiday fundraiser, because Silvan (Durben) always does such a great display here (during the Christmas season), and I’d read about Fezziwig dinners, so we jumped onto it,” said Stark.

After Stark retired from the OAC, the event went on hiatus, but “people kept asking for it” to return, she said. Consequently, Stark is back in action organizing next month’s dinner.

A “very traditional event that unfolds in a classic way,” the Fezziwig dinner “was extremely popular,” Durben said. “We all enjoy Scrooge and the Christmas carolers.”

Scrooge is once again played by Larry Pierce, who has portrayed the iconic miser from “A Christmas Carol” on numerous occasions both at the Fezziwig dinner and for the Little Theatre of Owatonna.

“The character is so fun,” and even Scrooge “is feeling happy” at this dinner, Pierce said. “It’s a party scene, (with) happiness, a little dancing, good food, and merriment.”

The costumes for Scrooge and other participants are courtesy of the Little Theatre of Owatonna and costumers Mary Gontarek and Gail Plathe, Stark said. For previous Fezziwig dinners, the arts center had to rent outfits from a different costumer, but now LTO owns that collection.

Braasch-Turi will be one of the servers at the celebration, and she’ll join others in period garb.

“I got to go up in the Little Theatre and try on clothes,” she said. “It was so fun, and I found a beautiful dress that fit me.”

Stark, an institution at both LTO and OAC, is thrilled she can pair the two for the Fezziwig celebration, she said. Stark knew more than merely a dinner was needed, so she added LTO carolers for the initial Fezziwig dinner, and this year’s carolers are a mix between veterans and newcomers.

Heather Burke, Mike Burke, Ray Lacina, Bev Cashman, Gail Thompson, Vidette Ostermeier, Greg Krueger, and Bruce Westphal will be the carolers, and Sandy Brooks will be the pianist. In addition to Durben as Mr. Fezziwig, Nancy Lacina as Mrs. Fezziwig, and Pierce as Scrooge, Nancy Westphal will portray the Ghost of Christmas Past.

Guests will be greeted by Mr. Fezziwig and Mrs. Fezziwig, who will “seat them like they’re coming into their home,” and there will be entertainment during dinner, Stark said. The evening will end with the carolers performing Mannheim Steamroller’s rendition of “Silent Night,” a favorite of Stark’s.

“It’s very moving,” Durben said. “It’s a peaceful way to end the evening.”

“This is something special for people to do during the holidays,” Stark said. “It’s a lovely evening.”