The Great Christmas Dickens Fair 2022 – the Beloved Bay Area Event Returns to the Cow Palace Exhibition Halls
The Dickens Fair is the premier Holiday event of the Bay area, looked forward to by locals, and travelers from far and wide. Not to be missed I urge all to come and find out why everyone is saying, “Happy Christmas.”
As the Happy Christmas Fair begins it 38th season, I got to thinking about the long history and the folks at the Dickens Fair, including Kevin Patterson himself, provided some pics.
As you enter the “Dickensian Streets” of olde London, I implore you to feast your eyes and ears on the sumptuous display of boisterous and amazing live entertainments. Once a year only in San Francisco comes the artful yuletide extravaganza with a cast of over a thousand participants. Please, wander the “streets” enjoying the Victorian frivolity, festivity, feasting, fashion shopping, and fun.
Whether it be the ceramic artwork of Rebecca Love, of the handmade costumes of Don and Andrea Thompson at Velvet Bedlam, there is enjoyment and festivities for all, for which one weekend is simply not enough. I will attend at least three times this season. If you want to people watch and enjoy the costumes worn by the Patrons, that’s a treat in itself. And don’t forget, there are Pudding and Cakes.
The Dickens Fair, today produced by Red Barn Productions, headed by Kevin, Leslie, and Drew Patterson, was initially conceived in 1968 when Kevin’s parents, Ron and Phyllis Patterson, hosted a holiday party in their home in the Hollywood Hills. This 1968 Holiday party differed in theme from their Renaissance themed Summer Faire, and was inspired by the novels of Charles Dickens.
Phyllis Patterson began the tradition and today Red Barn Productions continues the tradition by offering offers classes and workshops on historical life and performance, and conducts informational exchanges with international history sites.
The Patterson’s and the attendees that first Dickens holiday party, that Ron and Phyllis suggested the event be held every year, perhaps on a larger scale than that original home party. With the Original Renaissance Faire having expanded to Northern California in Marin County an old brick warehouse along Fisherman’s Wharf engendered in the Patterson’s visions of what might have been the covered marketplace of old Victorian London.
Originally called The Great Dickens Christmas Fair and Pickwick Comic Annual, the first Dickens Fair opened for three weekends at a vintage warehouse adjacent to San Francisco’s Embarcadero district, called the Anchor Works (now the location of Levi Plaza).
There have been other locations over the years, where patrons are always greeted with a `Happy Christmas,’ whether from a Chimney Sweep, Mr. Scrooge, or a myriad of other actors, always in character, roaming the village of London. In 2000 the Fair first moved to the Cow Palace, it’s home now, and for the last twenty years.
In the Grand Concourse, Patterson & Sons Information offers a gallery, information, and souvenirs from your visit to Dickens London, including Victorian books, cards, antique laces, dolls, and the like. Be sure to pick up The Illustrated London Chimes newspaper, and you may want to book a Tour of London while there.
Take the kids to see Punch and Judy, and get a photo with Santa at the Father Christmas Stage, where the Father Christmas Parade arrives at 12:50 each day. Characters maybe found throughout the day, including old Ebenezer Scrooge himself, Bob Cratchit and Tiny Tim, or Oliver Twist and Nancy.
Adults may want to plan adventures at the Green Man Inn, enjoy a Port and Chocolate tasting at the Mermaid Inn, or enjoy a bawdy show with Can-Can dancers, at Mad Sal’s Ale House. As a Thanksgiving treat, Mad Sal’s will be pouring hard cider by Tenfiveone Cider Company, a woman-owned and run craft hard cider company in nearby Morgan Hill, California. For those inclined, the Pub Crawl will assist in discovering fine brews at each of five pubs; Smithwicks, Old Speckled Hen, Forth Point, North Coast, and Anchor Steam.
Like the original Dickens Fair and Renaissance Faires, where an early tradition of authentic costuming, interactive entertainment, and atmospheric sets was begun. Thus, it continues today, promoting the revival of handicrafts, folk music, living history, and improvisational theater. The Dickens Fair is today still a rebellion against the mass manufacturing, homogenization, and today’s formulaic province of electronic entertainment.
This Dickens London welcomes a diversity of peoples from around the world. London of course being one of the more diverse cities in the world, where cultures and traditions of all persons are honored. Charles Dickens himself known as the requieter of the feast, for penning ‘A Christmas Carol’ which was first published on December 19, 1843. The Novella was a social commentary designed to open the hearts of the “prosperous and powerful” toward the poor and powerless. Boy, could we use more of this today!
At the heart of events and “goings-on” are the Victoria & Albert Bijou Music Hall, and Fezziwig’s Dance Party, where hourly dance, party, and music takes place throughout each day. I must say I did miss the “Postcards” show this year, and hope it will make a comeback next year.
The 38th edition of this one-of-a-kind event has expanded to include pre-show area – known as “Vauxhall Gardens” – iit s free to the public (with $15 parking) and will feature skating rink made of synthetic ice where unlimited skate time (including rental) is $12 and $6 for children ages 3-8, and new is a forest of fresh-cut Christmas Trees offered for sale by the nonprofit Delancey Street Foundation.
For Dicken’s performers, then and now, the Dickens Fair offers that unique opportunity for interaction with the audience, and to receive that live feedback that feeds the soul of performers. The only celebration of its kind in the world, the Dickens Fair transports visitors to the London of Charles Dickens, with all its famed characters, travelers rejoice at the rose-tinged sights and sounds. Mouths water with the smells of cinnamon and chocolate, savory pies, and foods for hearty feasting from olde London.
Live entertainment is vital for every community and elaborate events like the Dickens Fair are enormously costly to maintain year-round. I want to personally thank the Patterson’s (now in their third generation) and all those with Red Barn Productions who work hard all year long to enable this holiday treat to happen. I want to thank all the performers, and cast members, the vendors, and everyone associated with the Dickens Fair for sticking with it, and for all their efforts to bring back what is truly one of the greatest live-entertainment holiday events. When you attend, please, do thank all those who make the Dickens Fair so special. I’m sure they will appreciate it.
WHERE: The Cow Palace Exhibition Halls, 2600 Geneva Avenue, Daly City, CA
DICKENS FAIR TICKETS & INFORMATION: www.dickensfair.com
General Admission prices:
- Adult (13+ yrs.): $45.00
- Youth (ages 5-12): $25.00
- Children under 5: Free
- Fair Season Pass: $160.00 (a $495.00 value!)
- Additional Information
On-Site Parking: $15/car, $30/RV or bus (cash or credit, charged by the Cow Palace)
For Covid Protocols visit the website.
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*Photos ©2022GregAutry_ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Historical photos courtesy of LHC staff.