Photography by Greg Autry*
The Great Dickens Christmas Fair & Victorian Holiday Party returns to the historic Cow Palace in Daly City, South of San Francisco, on November 19th, and continues for five weekends (including November 25th, the Friday after Thanksgiving) through Sunday, December 18th, 2016. The Great Dickens Christmas Fair has been a stellar event for decades, and this will be my fourth consecutive year covering this joyous Holiday Party. This year’s version is especially designed to kindle and set aglow your holiday spirits.
The Elves of The Great Dickens Christmas Fair magically transform over three acres of exhibition halls into the delightfully lively world of Charles Dickens’ London. Cheerful calls of street vendors meld with songs of holiday carolers; enticing aromas of roasted chestnuts and hearty foods fill the air; and inviting shops overflow with one-of-a-kind Christmas gifts. As they explore the theatres, pubs and winding lanes of Victorian London, guests are surprised and amazed at every turn by the vibrant street scenes and colorful characters out of Victorian life and fiction, including, of course, Mr. Dickens’ lively imagination.
My photos at the Great Dickens Christmas Fair seek to portray guest adorned in period costume, as well as the performers found throughout the Shire. Whether in costume or not, a Happy Christmas is had by all.
Originally conceived and created by Ron & Phyllis Patterson in 1970, The Great Dickens Fair is now produced by Kevin and Leslie Patterson and Red Barn Productions, continuing the family tradition of theatrical excellence, historical authenticity, and environmental theater. Kevin and Leslie Patterson are in fine fiddle, keeping their eye on the historical details and nuances that make this such a special venue.
“Imagine visiting London’s West End in1850 and finding all the theatre and shop doors open wide, and the lamp lit streets filled to overflowing with hilarity and mirth! That’s what every day of the Fair is like,” says Executive Director Kevin Patterson. “Over 750 characters from the imagination, heart and times of Charles Dickens will sweep you into the play and bring you laughing and dancing into the holiday spirit.”
Check out the schedule for stage entertainments, ranging from the family-friendly to the bold and even slightly outrageous. Proper ladies and gentlemen and their families may choose to enjoy an opera gala, children’s shows, melodramas, music-hall turns, and dance performances in upscale settings. Those feeling more adventurous and wild might prefer to carouse with can-can dancers and salty sailors amidst the bawdy entertainments at the all-new Mad Sal’s Music Hall Review.
Bring your appetite when you visit The Great Dickens Christmas Fair— there’s ever so much to eat and drink! Feast on delicious foods from the British Empire and beyond, from exquisite savories to heavenly handcrafted sweets. You may also want to visit one of the five traditional pubs to enjoy a frothy pint of ale, fine wine, bubbly champagne, Irish coffee, or hot toddy. You can also enjoy a traditional English High Tea with scones and finger sandwiches – anytime is teatime at the Dickens Fair.
The Great Dickens Christmas Fair is perfect for young people, offering authentic old-world activities, games, and holiday entertainment opportunities. The kids will enjoy meeting Old Father Christmas; riding on a hand-powered Adventure Carousel; cheering and jeering at Punch & Judy puppet shows; marveling at the Toy Parade; taking tea with Alice and the Mad Hatter; enjoying children’s entertainment on the Father Christmas Stage and family entertainment in the Victoria & Albert Music Hall. In addition, youngsters can create their very own Fairy Houses, try their hand at an actual 1860s printing press, learn to tie intricate knots, sing sea chanteys, have their hair French-braided, or create their own holiday gifts such as rolled beeswax candles and hand-painted ceramic ornaments.
Adult patrons love to meet in the Bohemian Absinthe Bar for lively conversation, or at Mad Sal’s Dockside Ale House to join in the singing of raucous favorites and watch high-kicking dancers take to the stage for the wicked “Can-Can Bijou.” One of the least publicized, yet biggest draws of the Fair is the extremely popular and outrageous “Saucy French Postcards Tableaux Revue,” which returns to the Victoria & Albert Bijou Music Hall during “Dickens After Dark” – with an all-new risqué exhibition of beauty unveiled! This immensely popular twilight-hour entertainment is sure to entice and delight the adults in the audience. Try as one might there are no photos allowed at the Naughty French Postcard Show. “Oh-La-La.”
Shop for the perfect holiday gift and revel in a wonderland of one-of-a-kind artisan treasures. Nearly 100 beautiful shops offer fanciful clothing and accessories, ceramics, elegant drink ware, stunning jewelry, toys, ornaments, antiquarian books, and more. You can buy a Violin, or have a ceramic face mask made by custom order. All the shops offer the finest gifts imaginable, hand crafted of superb quality.
Introducing Select-Day Ticketing for 2016 ~ Reserve your day early!
With the growing popularity of the Dickens Christmas Fair over the past 16 years, and to ensure the comfort and enjoyment of Fair guests, theatre-style Select-Day ticketing is being added. As with other theatrical events, ‘Select-Day’ tickets must be purchased for the actual day you wish to attend, so purchase early to make sure that you’re able to attend on the day(s) you prefer! Although all tickets are non-refundable, they are fully transferable to another person.
It is recommended to get tickets early,
- Adult/General Admission (13+): $30.00
- Children (5-12yrs): $14.00
- Children under 5 are always free
- Pickwick Club 2016 Season Pass: $105.00
- Adult Twilight Tickets, valid after 3:00 PM: $18.00 (available at the box office only)
- Child Twilight Tickets, valid after 3:00 PM: $10.00 (available at the box office only)
On a personal note, many have commented about my seeming absence. I assure you I’m not absent, I have simply been engrossed in the writing of my upcoming book about the Artist Julian Ritter. To that end, some of my other endeavors have been put on the back burner. I have however, tentatively booked the Edwardian Balls in both San Francisco (January) and Los Angeles (February,) for 2017. Stay tuned and look for more on my Blogs and Websites, you can always connect with me on Social Networks also.
FOR MORE INFORMATION, visit the Dickens Fair website
* All Images Copyright 2016 Greg Autry ALL RIGHTS RESERVED