Friday, 22 November 2013

My Guide to Dickens Fair

The Great Dickens Christmas Fair, also known as Dickens Fair, is an event that happens every holiday season at the Cow Palace in Daly City, CA (just south of San Francisco).

This year's run time starts this Saturday, November 23rd and is every weekend (plus Black Friday) till December 22nd. Doors open at 10 AM and close at 6PM.

This will be my second year attending Dickens Fair but I don't just go, I play. I am a performer at Dickens Fair- Miss Charlotte Web part of the Coventry Carolers. And while I might not be an expert, I was there every weekend and found out about many things and experienced them while I was there thanks to other performers and my own curiosities. So here is my list of stuff to do at Dickens Fair. It might not be perfect but these are just merely suggestions, and in no particular order.

1. Well first things first, you must hear the Coventry Carolers perform!

We are the ones responsible for spreading the Christmas cheer all throughout Dickens' London all day long starting before the doors to the event even open! Yes while you lot are lining up outside in the cold waiting for the festivities to begin, we are out there entertaining you with Victorian Chirstmas tunes and preparing you for coming attractions. But if you miss us during opening, then here is a list of our other scheduled times:
9:25 – 10:15   {approximately}  Opening
12:00 – 12:30  Front ??
12:50  Father Christmas Parade 
1:30 – 2:00  V & A
2:45ish – 3:30ish Paddy West Stage 
4:00 High Tea
Small Group 
4:50ish  Boar’s Head Parade
5:25 – 6ish Paddy West Stage

2.The Characters!

Dickens drew his characters in his novels from the people around him and so when re-creating his London, naturally those characters will walk the streets. It is what makes this Christmas Party better than any other because not only are we re-creating Victorian London but you can actually meet and interact with literary characters. You can see the tale of the Christmas Carol being told throughout the day. Wish Scrooge and Merry Christmas and get an actual 'Bah Humbug' in return. We try to represent all characters and novels but the most characters seen come from Nicholas Nickleby. Of course there is Dodger and his gang from Oliver Twist and you can even meet Dickens himself.

Last year, on the last day of fair I got to dance with both Scrooge and Prince Albert! Another great thing I witnessed was Edgar Allen Poe reciting The Tell-Tale Heart and The Raven in all his drunken glory at the Adventurer's Club. You never know who you are going to meet.

3. Food and Beverages!
I believe the total count is 7 pubs/taverns. They have a variety of different drinks, both with or without alcohol, that are very unique and quite delicious. My brother loved their beer selection and my parents keep reminiscing about the drinks they had. And you can tell what food is near based on the smells. Scent of malt vinegar? Probably by the fish and chips. Cinnamon sugar roasting? By one of the two almond stands (which are amazing and addicting). Then there is this whole area with the most food that has pasties and bangers and all the foods you can expect in London. And across from the Victoria and Albert hall is the meat pie shop, but you'll want to get one early because the line gets scary long around mid-day.

4. Dancing at Fezziwig's!
If you are awkward and don't want to dance with someone you don't know, I know the feeling, but you have to get past it because the Fezziwig dancers are really nice and friendly and will make sure you don't feel awkward while you dance. Just dance one dance and you'll understand just how much fun it is. For prime dancing times, the end of the night is where it is at because that is one the few things still going on at this time.

5. Corset Models

Dark Garden Corsets have two display windows where the beautiful citizens of London kindly lend their bodies for an hour to display the beautiful corsets available at the shop. They pick a theme and whether you recognize what or who they are or not, it is still very tasteful and a work of art. I can happily say that I shall be lending my statue talents this year for, hopefully, two windows.

6. Saucy French Post Cards
Might as well follow corsets with this. Saucy French Post Cards is a show at the Victoria and Albert Hall in the evening hours that is for the older visitors because if does contain suggestive language and nudity...lots of nudity. But it is comedic dialogue mixed with living art. It is entertaining and pretty amazing to watch so if you are of age and can get tickets, I highly recommend it.

7. Mad Sal's

 Because I am of the higher class of Victorian Citizen I do not often find myself down in the Southern end of London with the scum, but I hear there is this stage hosted by a lady named Mad Sal where there are can can dancers and lots of other strong women and men who sing and entertain with catchy songs.

8. Shops

So many shops. Most performer's get their Christmas shopping done here because there are many unique arts and crafts type of gifts from leather masks, old books, even Harry Potter wands. One of my favourite things was this key shop where they sold old keys on chains with other charms and there were actual keys. My mum got one that was 150 years old from England that opened a door. My aunt received one that was American and opened a chest, I believe. 

9. Fun time for kids!

Did you just see Alice walking with the White Rabbit down the street? You bet you did. Over at the Father Christmas stage you can see a performance of Alice in Wonderland, classic nursery rhymes, and even meet Father Christmas himself. And it is interactive so your kids will be involved.

10. Time Travel
Let's face it, this will probably be one of the closests way you will ever come to actual time travel. It is a completely emmersive experience and while you and many other might be wearing funny clothes, there are plenty of performers to make you forget about those. Yes there is occasional guest dressed as the Doctor (in fact you will see a multitude of them) and just know those are guests, but it doesn't means we aren't Doctor Who fans. I took this picture of a back stage wall:

So there an even ten but that really can't sum up Dickens Fair quite enough. You really just need to go there for yourself because there is nothing else like this in the world, not even in the original London.

Hope to see you there!


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