Last Saturday, I spent the good part of the day into the evening at the "Great Dickens Christmas Fair," a month long celebration of the holidays in the Cow Palace in South San Francisco. I'm still struggling to find words to describe the experience.
The Dicken's Fair is a fully realized recreation of Victorian England (or at least as fictionalized by Charles Dickens and other authors) including entire city blocks of shops, cafes, pubs and diverse entertainments, brought alive by a cast of hundreds of costumed participants.
Everything is designed to fully immerse you in the experience. A street vendor tempts you with freshly roasted chestnuts. A passing group of drunken sailors sing bawdy drinking songs. A puppet show delights children with Punch and Judy hitting each other with sticks. A pub serves hot mulled wine and other spirits to a raucous crowd of celebrants.
It's enough to make you forget where and when you are.
My girl Jeskat had multiple roles at the Fair….
She was one of the living window displays at a local corset shop.
She also sang with in the Coventry Carol group. Here they are being visited by a group of gruff sailors.
And she was a cast member in the adults-only "French Postcards" production that happens later in the evening. (No pictures, sorry.)
Here's Jeskat and me in the steampunk emporium. I did my best to look as period as I could. Jeskat of course is gorgeous.
The day passed into evening so quickly as I was absorbed in the experience, along with my sister and cousin who came along. We ate various period-specific fare like bangers and mash, spiced nuts and roast beef. We shared some hot mulled wine that was strong and well spiced. We danced a polka in Fezziwig's dance hall. In a hat shop we tried on various fascinators, newsies and bonnets. And we saw lots of carolers wandering about. Along the road, we even had to make way for a passing entourage of Queen Victoria and her children along with their attendants!
Here's some Morris dancers performing a spirited dance routine with a live band at Mad Sal's.
The evening closed with a hundred or so people singing Handel's Messiah together in Fezziwig's dance hall, which was just a perfect way to end the night.
There are hundreds of more things to see and do that I don't have time to write about now. Whether you are shopping for some special gifts and handcrafts, eager to waltz to a live band, sing bawdy songs in a tavern, dine on English specialities like fish and chips and meat pie, or just get into the Christmas spirit, I can't think of a better place to go than the Dickens Fair.
The Dicken's Fair runs every weekend until December 18. Don't miss it, if you are in the area! See more of my pics on my Flickr set.