Dickens on the Strand is a world-famous annual one-weekend festival dedicated to Dickens and his time. It is located in Galveston in the state of Texas, and takes place during the first weekend of December, rain or shine.
This was my first experience visiting the festival, although I had already heard about the parades, the food, the costumes, and the visits from Dickens’s relatives. After missing last year’s festival (and the opportunity to view the famous Dickens’s Dream painting in person) I decided this would be the year I would finally visit the festival, especially with the bicentennial taking place this year.
This year they were hoping to break a world record for obtaining the most signatures on a card, for Dickens’s 200th birthday. After arriving and finding a parking lot, we walked a short distance into the festival and looked for the birthday card. There were already performers on the streets and there was a line to sign the card. The costumes were incredible. There were people dressed in accurate Victorian dress, as well as those dressed in a variety of different costumes (I even saw someone as Belle from Beauty and the Beast!). Not only do they have a Victorian costume contest, but they have added a steampunk costume contest due to popularity.
The performers were very unique and varied. There were animal performers with live owls, jugglers who utilized fire and knives, and unicyclists, among others. My favorite event was the bed races. Different teams push beds on wheels and compete to win in different categories. There is one person lying on the bed as if asleep, and once the team pushes the bed to the midpoint; then the person in bed gets up and switches places with another person who has been pushing the bed. But you have to be careful -- if you don’t put on the nightgown the right way, you lose five points.
There were three beds during the time we were there, and by far my favorite was the Scrooge bed. It was beautifully decorated and each person pushing the bed was a character (the three Spirits and Ebenezer). One of the bedposts was even a scythe similar to one that might be carried by the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. They really worked hard not only during the race but in decorating their bed, and in the end they won two out of the three categories.
Lucinda Dickens Hawksley was scheduled to sign books at the retail store, but by the time we arrived she had already departed. However, there were a few copies of her book Charles Dickens remaining. There were beautiful ornaments, including one of Scrooge and Marley’s Counting House, among other souvenirs. We were able to try some of the food while there, which included turkey legs, shrimp, and sausage on a stick, but unfortunately had to depart before the Queen’s Parade, which is a much-loved and anticipated event. Overall, we had a very lovely time and marveled at the costumes and the number of people who love Dickens and still keep his work alive. I have decided that next year, I will definitely be in costume when I attend!
(All photos copyright Selenia Paz. Click photos to enlarge.)