Now in its 35th year, the one-of-a-kind Great Dickens Christmas Fair & Victorian Holiday Party kicks off on Saturday, November 23 and continues five weekends from 10am to 7pm, including the Friday after Thanksgiving, through Sunday, December 22, 2013 at San Francisco’s historic Cow Palace, 2600 Geneva Ave.
A beloved Bay Area tradition and one of the most elaborate, inventive and authentically-Victorian Christmas events anywhere in the world, the Great Dickens Christmas Fair & Victorian Holiday Party showcases over three acres of exhibition halls transformed into a brilliant facsimile of Victorian London circa 1865. It was the peak of the British Empire, and Charles Dickens was dazzling the world with writing unequaled since the Bard put quill to vellum. An ever-changing recreated slice of Charles Dickens’ London, warmly lit and lovingly decorated, with winding lanes, shops, pubs, tearooms, lecture halls, a grand Music Hall and the London dockside brought to life by more than 750 authentically-dressed actors.
“The Great Dickens Christmas Fair is the only event of its kind in the world, a deeply immersive and historically authentic environmental theatre,” said Kevin Patterson who, along with his wife and co-producer Leslie Patterson, has been at the helm of this event for the past 14 years. “Now in its 35th Season, the Dickens Fair is a renowned West Coast family tradition that provides a rich and lively experience and crosses generational lines. There is something for every age group. It’s a time machine – dare to step inside!”
Originally founded in 1970 by Kevin Patterson’s parents, Ron and Phyllis Patterson, who saw the Fair as a vehicle for the education of a young generation that was not always keyed into the importance, relevance and sheer fun of history, the Great Dickens Christmas Fair is a local holiday classic that generations of Bay Area residents have enjoyed as their holiday tradition. Wander your way through 19th Century London alleyways, follow upper-crusty Petticoat Lane down to Nickleby Raod, and discover Mad Sal’s Dockside Alehouse, a raucous re-creation of a Victorian working class dance hall. In between, eat and drink a delicious array of British pub fare, enjoy an entire sit-down family dinner, and view shops filled to the brim with unique crafts, toys and arts.
Fairgoers of all ages will meet the characters of Charles Dickens’ London who combine their talents to create a fully immersive Victorian holiday experience. From Queen Victoria herself all the way down to Tiny Tim, the Dickens Fair brings to life a mixture of fictional and historic characters. Mingle with roving chimney sweeps, musicians, carolers, London bobbies, magicians, and saucy sailors. Gala parades, including the daily Toy Parade and the Father Christmas Parade, wind through the crowds, adding to the festivity.
The Dickens Christmas Fair also offers a variety of scrumptious treats and delicious dishes to tempt all palates. When hunger strikes, fairgoers may refresh themselves with traditional holiday goodies, including a feast of roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, goose or quail, fish & chips, duck a l’orange, hot meat pies, plum pudding, mulled cider and scones, hot roasted chestnuts, or Ambrosia truffles.
The Yuletide season is also a time for youngsters to delight in special activities, games and gifts — and at the Great Dickens Christmas Fair, holiday entertainment opportunities abound for both the young and the young at heart. For the little ones, there are visits with Father Christmas, a hand-powered Adventure carousel, Punch & Judy puppet shows, a parade with Mother Goose, and teatime with Alice of Wonderland, as well as the chance to meet characters from A Christmas Carol, Oliver Twist, and Nicholas Nickleby — even to encounter the great Charles Dickens himself!
Youngsters can create their very own Fairy Houses at the popular Fairy House Activity Area, next to the expansive Tea Garden. They can also try their hand at being “printer’s devils” with an actual 1860s printing press, learn to tie intricate knots and sing sea chanteys at the Paddy West School of Seamanship, become adorned with temporary tattoos or French hair braiding, or create their own holiday gifts such as rolled beeswax candles and hand-painted ceramic ornaments.
Bid farewell to the frenetic shopping malls of the 21st century and revel instead in a wonderland of one-of-a-kind artisan treasures: Victorian reproductions, fine art, romantic clothing, handsome drinkware, unusual ceramics, dazzling jewelry and accessories, even an overstocked antiquarian bookseller — more than 100 costumed vendors, many of whom return year after year to sell their wares at the Fair.
Adult patrons love to gather at Mad Sal’s Dockside Ale House to join in the singing of rowdy favorites and watch high-kicking dancers take to the stage for the wicked Can-Can Bijou. The immensely popular and scandalous “Saucy French Postcard Tableaux Revue,” with all new tableaux vivants, returns to the Victoria & Albert Bijou Music Hall. Enjoy a glimpse of the naughty inner reveries of stalwart Englishman Horatio Everard, Esq., and view the very flower of English Womanhood in bloom — a risqué exhibition of beauty unveiled! This immensely popular Twilight Hour entertainment is sure to beguile and delight the adults in the audience. Admission to this attraction is free, but you must request tickets upon arrival at the Fair; they go quickly and guests must be 18 or older to gain admission.
The Great Dickens Christmas Fair is directed and produced each year by the Patterson family, creators and producers for more than three decades of the world’s original Renaissance Faires at Black Point Forest in Marin County and in Southern California. This year the Fair opens Saturday, November 23 and runs Saturdays & Sundays (including the Friday after Thanksgiving!) through December 22, from 10 am to 7 pm.
Ticketing and Other Pertinent Information: General Admission tickets (age 13 and up) are available at the Box Office for $25 for the first 3 weekends and $30 for the final 2 weekends; at $12 for Children ages 5-12; and wee ones under 5 are free. Tickets are fully transferable.
A Tip from Scrooge: Season Passes are available online for $90 (a $295 value!); and Twilight Special tickets (good after 4:00 pm daily, available only at the Box Office) are $13.00 for adults and $8 for children ages 5-12. Group rates are available online for groups of 20-29; for parties of 30 or more, contact Terry Rosenstock, firstname.lastname@example.org, 415-668-0525. Parking is $10 per vehicle (charged by the Cow Palace). The Fair offers a free shuttle from the Glen Park BART station.
For more information, please call (800) 510-1558 x 114 or visit www.dickensfair.com.