The Great Dickens Christmas Fair signaled the arrival of the holiday season as it celebrated opening weekend at the Cow Palace. The Bay Area tradition immerses visitors in the world of Victorian London with colorful costumed characters, music halls, theaters, pubs, and an array of entertainment. The event returned to an in-person experience after a two-year pandemic hiatus.
Conceived and created in 1970, by the Patterson family, the fair is still a family-run historically authentic immersive theater.
Father Christmas visits with children. | Photo: Cheryl Guerrero/Hoodline
New this year is the addition of “Vauxhall Gardens.” This Victorian park-like setting has been added in a new 50,000-square-foot area and is free to the public to visit. It offers a skating rink, refreshment stand, and a Christmas tree lot with live trees for sale.
Visitors who have previously experienced the fair will recognize familiar streets, theaters, and activities. However, in an effort to increase attendee comfort, the event has added new ventilation and a redesigned layout that allows more air from open doorways.
“We are grateful for the opportunity to bring back this beloved holiday tradition,” General Manager Drew Patterson said via a statement. “We will continue to do everything we can to make this much-loved event a safe, enjoyable, and accessible experience for all our guests and participants.”
Cheapside Music Hall performers. | Photo: Cheryl Guerrero/Hoodline
The fair features nearly 100 shops and carts offering crafts, clothing, jewelry, toys, ornaments, and more. It also hosts a food hallway with everything from English fare to tea service to desserts. Vegetarian and vegan food options are also on hand.
Guests will find entertainment for the whole family, including music, hands-on crafts, puppet shows, and raucous stage shows. This year they also have added an interactive Sherlock Holmes experience where attendees can help the detective with clues to solve a case.
Sergei Trubetzkoy amidst the plumes at his wife’s shop, PiumaMia. | Photo: Cheryl Guerrero/Hoodline
The Great Dickens Christmas Fair and Victorian Holiday Party will be open Saturdays and Sundays from November 19th through December 18th. It will also be open this Friday, after Thanksgiving. Tickets must be purchased on-line in advance, with discounts for youth, military, and entrances after 3 p.m.
Here are more scenes from the fair’s opening day:
Performers take part in “Scrooge and Belle”.
Calliope Designs of Santa Rosa has been creating ornaments for 50 years.
The Grand Concourse.
Lee and Molly Anthony from Beaverton, OR, enjoy the skating rink. Lee said they made the trip from Oregon specifically for the fair.
Audience participation at “Trickish Matters with Jeremiah Johnston."
Champagne service at the Green Man Inn.
Book Display at Fitz-Gerald Manor Shop.
A candlemaker at work.
Performers sing in “An Irish Christmas Celebration”.
Fellowship Foundry Pewter stand.
Kids enjoy musical entertainment on the stage in Cratchit’s Yard.
Le Cancan Bijou perform.