Dickens Fair attracts Christmas enthusiasts


Nisha Marino

Grimaldi’s Grand Exposition of Wonders holds a show while audiences laugh and take pictures.

Nisha Marino, Highlander Editor-in-Chief

*source wished to keep their last name anonymous

Hundreds kicked off the holiday season on Nov. 18 at the Cow Palace’s Great Dickens Christmas Fair and Victorian Holiday Party.

The Dickens Fair, which is held every weekend until Dec. 17, is in its 35th year of celebration. Run by Red Barn Productions, the fair includes over 800 cast members dressed as characters from Dickens’s stories. The Dickens Fair takes up over 120,000 square feet of the Cow Palace in San Francisco and includes various shops, pubs, and shows.

Visitors can shop for jewelry, candles, soaps, and other handmade pieces, as well as time period clothing. For food, a group can make a reservation at “Cuthbert’s Tea Shoppe,” or order at a stand and eat on the picnic benches. There are also several shows to attend, for both adults and children. To make sure children are entertained, the fair offers games, interactive performances, and a seat on Father Christmas’s lap.

“My husband was really negative about this before we came,” said Preeya*, a first-time visitor from San Francisco. “Now he and my kid both love it. I’m thinking we’ll come again next year.”

In the “alleyway” at the middle of the event, a live parrot was showed off to hold. A woman named Susan* brought the parrot, who will be five in February, to educate people about the endangered species.

“We bring the parrots here and to Renaissance fairs because the more people that know about the birds, the more will want to help them,” said Susan*. “I want to get people in touch with the fact that these animals are real and need protecting and seeing them in the zoo doesn’t have the same impact as holding them in person.”

Performers and vendors come to the Dickens Fair for a variety of reasons. For some, it’s a fun way to celebrate the holiday season. Iona*, the woman who runs the “Boot the Cat” game, comes to the fair because it reminds her of home.

“I’m from London and this is like being at home for me,” said Iona. “It’s cheesy, but I love the atmosphere, the costumes, and how everyone takes it so seriously.”

Whether they entered as a performer or a visitor, everyone at the Dickens Fair gets festive and participates one way or another. The event offers a wide range of activities, and no one there is bored.

I just love that everyone is here for the same reason,” said Megan*, who’s been performing at the fair for 15 years. “It’s a real community. The people that come here are the kinds of people I like to be around.”