Roanoke, VA - Roanoke will officially kick off one of the region's biggest winter festivals Friday night. The 30th Annual "Dickens of a Christmas" is expected to draw more than 30,000 holiday visitors.
Downtown Roanoke transforms into a holiday wonderland for the event, and organizers say they are happy to welcome all those people knowing the weather is going to be great.
"I think there's an excitement in the air. Everybody loves Christmas, and this is a wonderful time of the year to share love with one another and come out and really celebrate Christmas in a great way," said Steve Musselwhite with Downtown Roanoke Inc.
It's the time of year for many of the vendors in the market as well. Vendors like Rich Vavala who, with his wife, has spent weeks getting ready for the big day.
"Dickens adds another dimension to the whole Christmas season," he said. "Downtown Roanoke, with all the greenery out, it's Beautiful. This is the best time of year for downtown Roanoke."
Vavala hopes that lots of people come into Roanoke to shop and take in the sights.
Groups like home schoolers who do that every year. They start with a visit to Hotel Roanoke's 14th annual "Fashions for Evergreens"; a Christmas tree display that also acts as a fund raiser for the United Way. It's an easy three minute walk from the city's Christmas Tree.
"It's been a tradition of ours for about the past six years to come here at Christmas time. We just love the trees, we love the ambiance of the hotel and we just feel like it's a wonderful thing Roanoke has to offer," said Annette Flagg with St. Elias Home School.
Friday night, there will be half dozen stages with tons of groups and individuals providing the entertainment.
They will also have a kid zone, food, vendors, carriage rides, face painting, juggling and of course pictures with Santa.