The 33rd Great Dickens Christmas Fair in San Francisco (photos)
As a world traveler, have you ever wished you’d had a chance to meet up with someone famous? Perhaps you’d like to have gotten to know a world-renowned person like Queen Victoria, for example, the queen who always said, “We are not amused.”
Well, now you CAN meet her (and you WILL be amused). At least, you can meet up with her character, that is.
That’s because you’re likely to see the dear Queen herself at the annual Great Dickens Christmas Fair which takes place at the Cow Palace in San Francisco, weekends through December 18 this year.
You’ll find many other characters walking through the streets of auld Blighty (London) as well and you’ll feel transported to another place and time in history.
“This is a four-hat event,” says Kron 4‘s critic Jan Wahl (see her in the photos to the left). “It brings the old days of London to life. I love it.”
On your meanderings, you’re likely to come across people like Jules Verne, Florence Nightingale, London’s famous bobbies (policemen) and Scrooge himself, to name but a few.
Oh, and when it comes to Scrooge, did you know that Dickens penned the story of “A Christmas Carol” in only six weeks? The actor, Robert Young, who plays the character of Charles Dickens, explains why:
“We needed the money,” says Robert Young, talking as Charles Dickens. “I had to write something really quickly.”
But it won’t just be famous people from Dickens time that you will experience at the Dickens Fair in San Francisco. There will be activities from the period too. In fact, there will be so much to do that it’s guaranteed to be one of the “Best of Times” rather than one of the “Worst of Times” for you and your family.
You’ll all be able to enjoy the aroma of roasted chestnuts in the air along with the magic of a Victorian Yuletide. You’ll be able to experience over three acres of the Cow Palace that have been transformed into 19th-century London–complete with its English pubs (there are five of them), quaint olde shoppes and narrow Dickensian streets.
The fair’s theatrical director, Robert Young says: “It’s beautiful that we can produce this, that we have this jewel. It’s Christmas when it was still very young and innocent.”
His sentiments are joined by Kevin Patterson, the fair director: “Everything good about Christmas in old London is here, and it’s all real.”
There are actually over 700 characters here in costume and some characters play their part exceedingly well at the Cow Palace. Watch out for Fagin, he’ll be that character trying to persuade your child to become a thief with his temptations to “try to pick a pocket or two.”
Hopefully, there won’t be any time (or need) to be picking pockets, everybody will simply have too much to do. Did you know there is a toy parade with Father Christmas leading the parade, a carousel with jungle animals that’s powered by hand and even vendors selling their handmade wares? Yes it’s true. There’s even a “Lewis Caroling” show and a children’s painting garden. Not to be missed. Even Fagin would be happy “reviewing the situation.”
And the adults haven’t been forgotten either. They can have fun at the “Saucy French Postcard Tableaux Revue” (ages 18 and up only please), or watch a can-can show at Mad Sal’s Dockside Alehouse.
So how did the fair get started in the first place?
The original Renaissance Faire was brought about by Ron and Phyllis Patterson in 1963 in North Hollywood (Haskell’s Raskell’s Ranch) and brought to Northern California in 1967 in Marin County (China Camp). Based on the astounding success of the Renaissance “living history” events, they decided it was time to do something in the winter months.
And that’s when the first Great Dickens Dickens Fair was born. The year was 1970.
Says son, Kevin Patterson, who has been overseeing the Fair for many years: “My parents were really charmed and intrigued by the indoor markets in London. We hit the ground running and never looked back.”
And hitting the ground running is certainly true. The event is expected to bring in over 40,000 visitors this year alone.
The event takes 3 weeks for the setup and the items are stored on Mare Island in 14 tractor-trailers before being brought to the event.
If you want to go in period dress, you can even do that and in fact, many people do, so don’t be shy.
But when the event is over, don’t be sad, it will be back. Every year, this original Great Dickens Christmas Fair opens the Friday after Thanksgiving and runs until the Sunday before Christmas,
We’re marking our calendar for next year already!”
As Charles Dickens himself said: “The pain of parting is nothing to the joy of meeting again.” And you can meet everyone at the Dickens Fair all over again next year, in 2012–the 200th anniversary of Charles Dickens’ birth.
Don’t miss it. Even Queen Victoria would find herself royally amused by it.
San Francisco residents can get to the Dickens Fair using transit.511.org while world travelers coming in to San Francisco as part of their holiday travel, can fly into SFO International Airport. Deals can be found online at www.kayak.com
Event Facts for The Great Dickens Christmas Fair
Location: Cow Palace, 2600 Geneva Ave., San Francisco
Time: Opens Nov. 25; 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturdays-Sundays; closes Dec. 18
Fees: $12 to $25, free for children under 5; passes and discounts available
Telephone and website: (800) 510-1558,www.dickensfair.com
Shuttle Service: Parking costs $10, but a free shuttle runs from the Glen Park BART station
Think the British accent is cute? Where do you think it would rank in the world’s sexiest accents? See if you were right by checking out this article, written by this Examiner: World’s sexiest accent. Which country wins for having sexy tones? lodeplus.com/world-travel-in-san-francisco/world-s-sexiest-accent-wh…
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