Dickens on The Strand, Galveston's Annual Victorian Holiday Festival
Full-Scale Festival Plans Resumed Just One Year after Hurricane Ike
New Events to Include Victorian Bed Races and The Dickens Emporium Featuring an Exhibit from London’s Charles Dickens Museum
Tickets are now available online at www.galvestonhistory.org to Dickens on The Strand, Galveston Historical Foundation’s 36th annual Victorian-style street festival filled with costumes, music, food and wares straight from the streets of 19th-century London. The festival, set this year for December 5 and 6, is always held the first weekend in December in a 10-square- block area in historic downtown Galveston.
Last year, in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike, which inundated Galveston’s 19th-century collection of cast-iron commercial buildings with 13 feet of corrosive flood water, a scaled-back version of the festival took place as the first large outdoor event to be held in Galveston after the storm.
This year, the festival will resume full-scale, in a freshly restored downtown full of new and old boutiques, restaurants and specialty shops. Two new special attractions will highlight this year’s festival: Victorian Bed Races and the Dickens Emporium featuring an exhibit from London’s Charles Dickens Museum which will include Charles Dickens’ own chair in which festival patrons will be able to sit for Victorian Christmas portraits.
The highlight of the Dickens Emporium exhibit will be the famous painting “Dickens’s Dream,” which has never before been seen in the United States. The painting depicts the author sitting in his office chair dozing while images of the familiar characters from his novels float in the air around his head. Many other artifacts from the Charles Dickens Museum will be on view at the exhibit. Numerous retail items depicting the “Dickens’ Dream” image will be available for sale.
Thousands of visitors have become part of the Dickens festival over the years by showing up in Victorian-era costumes. This year, participants in the new Victorian Bed Races are invited to show up in Victorian-era sleeping attire.
Spectators who line the two-block race route can expect uproarious fun as costumed teams participating in the Dickens Victorian Bed Races push their decorated beds toward the finish line. Halfway along, each team has to stop, perform a “Chinese Fire Drill,” then one team member switches places—and costumes—with the team member who started out riding in the bed. The rider in the bed must wear a nightcap and nightshirt or gown.
Sponsored by Mattress Firm, the bed races offer prizes and 15 minutes of fame to victors in the First Annual Victorian Bed Races at Dickens on the Strand. Patrons to the festival will want to vote, for $1, on their favorite bed. Proceeds from the donations will be split between GHF and the first place winner’s charity choice. Interested in forming a team? Gather up your favorite office mates or neighborhood chums and go to the Dickens section of the GHF website (www.galvestonhistory.org) for downloadable rules and guidelines.
Other festival highlights include parades, non-stop entertainment on five stages, strolling carolers and roving musicians, bagpipers, jugglers and a host of other entertainers. Costumed vendors will peddle their wares from street stalls and rolling carts laden with holiday food and drink, Victorian-inspired crafts, clothing, jewelry, holiday decorations and gift items. Once again this year, children will be able to roll in snow at Dickens on the Strand.
“There is no better place in Texas to be than on the historic streets of Galveston during the first weekend in December,” said Dwayne Jones, executive director of Galveston Historical Foundation, which has turned its annual Dickens on the Strand into one of the premier holiday festivals in the nation. “This year’s festival is very special to Galveston. Hurricane Ike forced us to scale back last year’s Dickens on the Strand. This year, we have even added to all the wonderful features that have made attending the festival a tradition for thousands of Texas families over the years.”
Advanced tickets are $9 for adults and $4 for children 7 to 12. They are available online and must be purchased on or before Dec. 4. Tickets at the gate are $12 for adults and $6 for children 7-12. Children 6 and under enter free. Visitors who wear Victorian-era costumes will be admitted for half price at the gate. Go to www.galvestonhistory.org for full ticket information or to sign up online to volunteer at the festival. For group ticket information, call 409-765-7834
On Saturday, Dec. 5, the festival is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. On Sunday, Dec. 6, hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.