53rd Annual Dickens Fair at the Cow Palace

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53rd Annual Dickens Fair at the Cow Palace

Golden Bay Times Articles
Published by Mauricio Segura in Bay Area · 2 December 2023
53rd Annual Dickens Fair at the Cow Palace

written by: Mauricio Segura / photo by: David Yu

In a captivating transformation, the Cow Palace in Daly City turns into a bustling 19th-century London street corner for the annual Great Dickens Christmas Fair. For five weekends, attendees find themselves immersed in the enchanting world of Charles Dickens, where characters come to life, vendors peddle wares, and the air is filled with merriment.

Among the eclectic cast is the mischievous Artful Dodger, who, contrary to Dickens' narrative, runs a pop-up pickpocket school for children. With a twinkle in his eye and adorned in Victorian attire, the Dodger shares his whimsical wisdom, playfully suggesting, "always steal, and never listen to your parents."

Veronica Maund, the real-life Dodger, navigates the challenge of staying in character, even when faced with familiar faces. "I can't break character," she asserts, recalling encounters with her own family trying to throw her off her thieving persona.

Originating in San Francisco in 1970, the Dickens Fair, produced by Red Barn Production, offers an array of festivities, from musical performances and dance parties to a carousel, bars, food stands, and over 100 shops. This festive extravaganza aims to transport visitors to Dickens' era, engaging them with colorful characters and a vibrant atmosphere.

While recent years posed challenges, including a virtual event in 2020 and a cast boycott in 2021 over concerns of racial and sexist treatment, the fair has rebounded. Protesters reached an agreement with organizers, leading to a joyous return to the beloved festival.

Participants, like Melinda Coy, escape the troubles of daily life through immersive performances. Coy, who plays Esther Summerson, Dickens's only female narrator, finds solace and joy in the event, providing a welcome balance to her day job in housing law compliance.

Young performers, embodying characters like Oliver Twist, infuse the fair with youthful exuberance. Bee Trechroci and Clara Bellinger, longtime attendees, cherish the nostalgic scents of hay, sugar nuts, and unscented candles. The experience, they say, is like "being a kid again."

As the Cow Palace brims with Dickensian delights, the Great Dickens Christmas Fair unfolds as a magical escape, offering attendees a chance to revel in the timeless charm of Dickens's world, where every twist and turn brings forth a new adventure.

For more information: https://dickensfair.com/

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