'S DICKENS FESTIVAL SET FOR THIS WEEKEND
Even though only a handful of Galveston's downtown Strand businesses will have re-opened by the first weekend in December, Galveston Historical Foundation staff and volunteers are still busy making final preparations for their most important annual event--Dickens on The Strand. The 35-year-old Victorian holiday festival is set for Saturday December 6 and Sunday December 7 in the heart of Galveston's historic downtown--The Strand, between 20th and 25th streets.
Just weeks after Hurricane Ike, on October 1, Galveston Historical Foundation Executive Director Dwayne Jones announced that the organization’s most important annual fundraising event, Dickens on The Strand, would take place as usual, even in the face of extensive flood damage by Hurricane Ike to the historic downtown where the festival is held.
More than 135 vendors and 50 different entertainment acts will be on hand. Victorian-clad carolers, bagpipers, jugglers, musicians and acrobats will fill Galveston 's downtown on a weekend that will mark the first major Galveston event to be held downtown since Hurricane Ike.
Many of the festival's regular entertainers have waived their fees this year in light of GHF's budget cuts in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike. The downtown Strand businesses that will be open by festival time include Hendley Market, the Emporium, Tsunami, To La Mo Betta, and Yaga's Gifts. Other downtown merchants will sell their wares at vendor spaces that GHF will give them free of charge. Street parking will be free (all Galveston's parking meters were lost during the flood).
Dickens on The Strand is always held the first weekend in December. This year, the festival is scheduled for December 6 and 7 with special events including a Dickens feast and holiday handbell concerts slated for the Friday before (December 5).
Dickens on The Strand originated in 1973 as an evening potluck celebration of Galveston’s Victorian-era downtown, including re-enactments from Charles Dickens’ novel “A Christmas Carol.” The festival was held to bring people back into a 19th-century era downtown that had been neglected for decades—so they could see new restoration efforts and participate in a celebration focused on Galveston’s Victorian heritage.
Since then, the festival has evolved into a full weekend event teeming with Victorian-costumed vendors, entertainers, and guests as well as a wide array of special events in historic properties throughout the island – including holiday house tours, a feast, concerts, breakfasts, and a Dickens Ball.
Over the years, with funds raised by its Dickens festival, Galveston Historical Foundation has succeeded in its partnership efforts to revitalize the island’s historic downtown. Prior to Hurricane Ike, Galveston’s downtown had been fully restored, and boasted a wide array of thriving boutiques, art galleries, antique shops, and restaurants.
’s downtown is federally designated as a National Historic Landmark District. It boasts one of the largest collections of restored 19th-century iron-front commercial buildings in the country. The downtown Strand National Historic Landmark District and the residential East End Historic Landmark District comprise the largest federally recognized historic landmark district area in the state of Texas. During Hurricane Ike, this historic area was severely affected, flooding by as much as 12 feet in many downtown buildings.
Galveston Historical Foundation is one of the largest local preservation organizations in the country. It is the steward of 13 historic properties including Bishop’s Palace, the 1877 tall ship Elissa and the oldest residence on the island, the Michel B. Menard House. Several GHF properties were severely damaged by Hurricane Ike—the worst including GHF headquarters, the 1861 U.S. Custom House along with the antebellum Ashton Villa house museum. Built in 1859, it is the oldest mansion on Galveston’s grand Broadway.
“Now more than ever we need our Dickens on The Strand Festival to take place,” said GHF executive director Dwayne Jones. “Our downtown businesses are all facing extensive flood remediation right now. If we can aim for the Dickens festival–a little more than two months from now–as a moment when people who love Galveston can come visit and check on our progress and help us raise the money we need to continue our restoration efforts, that will be a very good thing for all of us.”
It will be a struggle for Galveston Historical Foundation to put Dickens on the Strand on this year in the face of the loss of property and income due to Hurricane Ike. Those who would like to help Galveston Historical Foundation in its efforts to produce Dickens on The Strand this year may do so through cash sponsorship or donation of goods, services or talent. For more information about vendors, entertainers, group tours, special events, sponsorship, or volunteering, call Galveston Historical Foundation at 409-765-7834.
To purchase tickets online for Dickens on The Strand, go to