There are two websites that have additional information about Garrison and the Dickens Village Festival.

Garrison's local web site or the local newspaper, the McLean County Independent's web site.

Plus pick up the Dickens Gazette, a free travel guide to the festival, when you get to town for all the news.

The following news stories give you a glimpse at some of the activities at the festival.



The Past Year in the Life of the Queen

Posted 11/20/14 (Thu)

‘Queen Elizabus’ fixed and running again for Dickens


Since last Thanksgiving, the Dickens Festival’s main attraction, a cherry red, double-decker British bus  going by the name “Queen Elizabus,” has been immobile and sitting in a barn on display in Garrison.

Its needed quite a bit of fixing up since its construction in 1961. In 2009, a total make-over was done. Windows were taken out, the interior and exterior were cleaned and then painted. Holes were covered and patched up, all the imperfections were fixed. The improvements were paid for by a major fundraising that involved the sale of seats from tours, corporate donations and the Garrison Sale and Use Tax Committee. And now, gaskets in the three engines it requires to run have blown out and need replacing.

Replacing parts sounds easy, right? Well, the only problem is that the gaskets needed are no longer made, and the last one in the world is owned by a man in England, who would rather not sell it. Instead, blueprints of that gasket were drawn and with those plans, three replicas were specially made for the “Queen Elizabus.”

Finding this one part across sea must have been difficult, as Dick Messerly, Dickens Festival Committee member, and Charles Smith of Rensch Farm Store, “greatest double-decker bus mechanic in the world,” as Messerly likes to call him, started their search at British Bus Co. in San Diego which buys buses from England. From them, the two received connections that a company called Bristol Bus and Coach Sales, run by Simon Munden, could make these gaskets, seeing as it’s the same place the “Queen Elizabus” was originally made. Messerly made a call to Munden, requesting the parts.

Anxiety struck as November approached and the gaskets were still overseas. Dickens was just around the corner. And there was no bus. On Oct. 23, the gaskets arrived in the states, but still there lay a problem. Messerly received an upsetting phone call from the shipping company days later.

“We need to know how much each gasket cost, and we need to know which each gasket is made of,” said Messerly. “I had to call Simon in England again to get all that information. I told the shipping company all the information Simon told me, but then they had to get all the information from England. So Simon had to call them and give them all the same information.”

Messerly received an e-mail from the same shipping company wanting all that information again.

“So I gave them the same information three times,” an exasperated Messerly said. “Basically, from Oct. 23 to Nov. 7 it was being cleared for shipment, and for two weeks it sat here in the country.” Messerly expressed frustration: “And basically, from the time we blew the gasket to about May, we couldn’t find anyone who had any idea on how to get gaskets for this thing. It was a half a year of searching.”

Each of these rare gaskets cost an approximate of $300. With three of these, and shipping, the year-long hassle weighed in around $1,000.

With the queen up and running once more, Dickens Village Festival officials can now breathe easy, as the Dickens Festival can be complete again.

Article was published in the McLean County Independent Issue 11/20/2014.