The small town of Ebenezer (population 4223) had been named after Ebenezer Allen, the Revolutionary War hero from Vermont whose maternal grandnephew had been among the town’s founders. It wasn’t until five years later, in 1843, that the name became inexorably linked with Charles Dickens’ miser.

At first, the residents of Ebenezer–then a thriving logging community–paid the similarity little mind. A piece appeared in the Ebenezer Watch-Gazette around 1850 remarking on Dickens’ book and its anti-hero; the minutes of a council meeting from 1887 record the then-mayor raging against “that limey book” that had supplanted the patriot Ebenezer Allen in the public perception of his namesake burg.

Naturally, that was before the bottom fell out of the timber market in the early 1900s and Ebenezer began rusting as its local industries pulled up stakes. Before long, the lure of Dickens (conveniently in the public domain) was too great to resist. Beginning in 1977, the town organized an annual Ebenezer Scrooge Festival.

Highlights included a parade of Scrooges in scarves and top hats, coal-throwing contests, a haunted house, and of course a turkey cookoff. From modest attendance of 200 or so at the first event, by the 21st century the festival was regularly attracting thousands. The town even took the unprecedented step of establishing a “Scrooge in residence,” an actor who starred in continuous revivals of the stage version of A Christmas Carol and appeared in character on request.

The fact that Ebenezer was on the Gulf coast, and hadn’t seen a snowflake since a freak blizzard in 1902, didn’t dampen the town’s enthusiasm in the slightest.

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