The Great Dickens Christmas Fair and Victorian Holiday Party

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For all press inquiries, please contact Denise Lamott, Denise Lamott Public Relations, (415) 381-8793, [email protected]

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As we work toward the production of a full and festive return of The Great Dickens Christmas Fair in 2022, plans are underway to present a second season of the tremendously popular Dickens Fair At Home. Details on this virtual event and other safe yet festive alternatives for the 2021 season will be posted soon.

Dickens Fair HistoryThe Great Dickens Christmas Fair has been hailed as one of San Francisco’s premier annual events. Most patrons probably do not realize that its unique brand of magic has its roots in 1960s Los Angeles with an entirely different type of fair. In 1963 Ron and Phyllis Patterson created the concept of Renaissance Faires, and produced the first such fairs in America. Grateful for the success of their early fairs, the Pattersons decided in the winter of 1968 to host a special holiday party at their home in the Hollywood Hills.

For this party, they departed from the Renaissance theme and sought inspiration in the novels of Charles Dickens and late 19th-century history. The Pattersons and their guests so enjoyed the costuming, food, decorations, and games that they suggested the event be held every year, perhaps on a larger scale..

Meanwhile, the Pattersons had expanded the production of their Renaissance Faires to Northern California’s Marin County. In nearby San Francisco, the old brick warehouses along Fisherman’s Wharf, reminiscent of the covered markets of Victorian London, provided inspiration to create a Victorian Christmas party on a truly grand scale. What began as a house party was reimagined as a sizable indoor fair open to the public. Soon plans were underway to launch The Great Dickens Christmas Fair and Pickwick Comic Annual (as it was originally called).

The first Dickens Fair opened for three weekends in December of 1970 at the Anchor Works, a vintage warehouse adjacent to San Francisco’s waterside Embarcadero district.

One newspaper account at the time described the Fair experience as similar to entering a movie set or finding oneself cast in a pageant. The Fair was already establishing its tradition of authentic costuming, interactive entertainment, and atmospheric sets.

The early Renaissance Pleasure Faires and Dickens Christmas Fairs had a significant influence on American culture by promoting the revival of handicrafts and folk music, the concept of first-person interpretive living history, and improvisational theater. They have always provided a means of rebelling against the formulaic province of television, mass manufacturing, and the homogenization inherent in the modern world. To the performer and patron alike they provide an opportunity for interactive playfulness, and a connection with our shared folk history.

Ron and Brian PattersonWith the involvement of three generations of the founding Patterson family, and a large, multi-talented cast of performers and artists, as well as, over the years, thousands of devoted patrons, the Great Dickens Christmas Fair has evolved over the course of nearly five decades. It has become one of the San Francisco Bay Area’s most beloved and anticipated annual events - the only celebration of its kind in the world!

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Contact Us:

Please email all questions to: [email protected]

Please join our email list above to be kept informed, and mark your calendars for the return of The Great Dickens Christmas Fair in 2022!

And please support our Dickens Fair artist community by shopping online - year round - for your gift and household needs.

 

The Great Dickens Christmas Fair is produced by Red Barn Productions LLC. Please visit redbarnproductions.com to learn more.

What is the Dickens Fair?

The bustling streets of Victorian London, immortalized for all time by the mighty pen of Charles Dickens, form the living backdrop of your excursion into Christmas Past. You are a living part of a Victorian Christmas card come to life!

A Bay Area tradition since 1970, the Great Dickens Christmas Fair returns to the historic Cow Palace Exhibition Halls in Daly City from 10am 'til 7pm, opening on Saturday November 21 and running Saturdays and Sundays through December 20, 2020, including the Friday after Thanksgiving. Originally conceived and created by Ron & Phyllis Patterson, the fair is now produced by Kevin & Leslie Patterson & Red Barn Productions, who continue the family tradition of theatrical excellence, historical authenticity, and environmental theater. Come wander the lanes of Victorian London, as the glow of twilight settles upon the city, the scent of pine boughs & freshly baked scones floats in the air, and the sound of carolers and holiday merrymakers accompany your stroll.

Is the Dickens Fair happening in 2021?

No, our 2021 live event has been cancelled due to the Delta variant ~ the safety of our participants and the public is of the greatest importance. As we work toward production of a full and festive return of The Great Dickens Christmas Fair in 2022, plans are underway to present a second season of the tremendously popular Dickens Fair At Home. Details on this virtual event and other safe yet festive alternatives will be announced soon - be sure you are on our email list so we can keep you informed!

Do I have to wear a costume? What is the best way to dress for a day at the Dickens Christmas Fair? Is there any clothing that isn't permissible?

Costumes are encouraged but not required for our patrons.

The Dickens Christmas Fair is a casual, family-oriented environment. We suggest you dress comfortably, wear good walking shoes, and check the local weather report to determine if coats and umbrellas will be needed for your walk from the parking lot. The entire Fair is indoors and there is a Cloak Check provided just inside the entrance to "London."

Ensuring that the Fair maintains a family-friendly environment is an important part of our theatrical time travel & holiday experience. In that spirit, we ask you to use your discretion and common sense. Attire that is not appropriate for a family event (and which may result in refusal of admittance) includes but is not limited to:

  • Clothing with objectionable material, including obscene language or graphics
  • Clothing which, by nature, exposes excessive portions of the skin that may be viewed as inappropriate for a family environment

We also ask that you not attend the event in costumes or clothing that can be viewed as representative of a central Dickensian character (especially Ebenezer Scrooge; the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present & Future; and Charles Dickens; or of course, Queen Victoria herself or Father Christmas himself; or the American Santa Claus).

Guests may not wear full head masks (such as “Furries”) of any kind, or a full face mask unless it is transparent and used for a medical condition. Small Masquerade style masks are permitted, especially if part of a Victorian Ball costume or Evening attire.

Guests may not attend in costumes that are highly distracting from our Victorian theme. This is at management’s discretion and includes but is not limited to the following examples: Storm Troopers (Star Wars costumes in general), Superheros (such as Marvel Comics characters), Fantasy characters, (including Sorcerers, Krampus, and Monsters). The entire Dickens Christmas Fair is a theatrical venue where our actors are maintaining a story line relating to the works of Charles Dickens and the London of the mid 1800s. Appearing in costumes not in keeping with the theme detracts from the authentically Victorian reality our performers work very hard to create. 

Thank you for your understanding and cooperation.

If you wish to create a full or partial costume to enhance your Fair experience, please take the time to consult our very informative participant costume guidelines. Again, costumes are encouraged, but not required!

How much is Parking? Where do I park?

The Cow Palace charges per vehicle to park (2021 cost TBD). A complimentary shuttle is available to transport you from the upper parking lot to the front gate. Look for Dickens Fair Shuttle signs.

To park, please use the main Cow Palace entrance at 2600 Geneva Ave., and park as directed by the Cow Palace staff. If you have a handicapped placard, both the Gate 5 entrance and the Main Entrance offer handicapped parking.

Where is Ride Share Pick-Up & Drop-Off?

You may ask your Uber, Lyft or other ride share driver drop you off at the Fair entrance (white tents).

Ask your driver to enter at Gate 5 on Geneva (south 100 yards from the main Cow Palace entrance).

Ride-share pick-up is just south (100 feet) of the main Cow Palace entrance ~ outside the main parking lot ~ on Geneva. You may take the parking lot shuttle from the Fair entrance to the main lot, and then proceed out onto Geneva Blvd. to the pick-up point.

Parcel Checks at Fair Entrance

To ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for all our guests, all persons, bags, parcels, and other items may be subject to screening/security checks at the Fair entrance and also within the venue. We reserve the right to not allow any bag, parcel, or other item to be brought into the Fair.

Are there ATMs?

Yes. When you need cash, there are four ATMs at the Fair. Two are located just inside the Lobby; the third and fourth are located on Fish Street inside the Bank of London. All are marked on the Fair Map (map also provided in free souvenir program offered at the Fair entrance).

Are there Wheelchairs for rent?

The Fair is handicapped accessible. Wheelchairs are available for rental at the Cloak Check inside the Fair for $20.00 on a first-come, first-served basis.

Is there a Baby Center or a place for Lost Children?

Infant Care Spaces are located inside each of the ladies’ Restrooms. And just outside the Victoria & Albert Theatre, a private parlour to tend to your infant can be found.

Are Animals welcome at the Fair?

Except for service animals, the Dickens Christmas Fair does not allow animals inside the venue. Service animals are welcome at the Fair.

Is there a Coat or Parcel Check?

Coat and Parcel check is available across from the Patterson & Sons information booth, in the Grand Concourse. Prices are $2 for Coats, Sweaters and Small Parcels; $3 for Backpacks; and $5 for Large Parcels, Suitcases, Strollers and Coolers.

What types of personal items are NOT permitted inside the Dickens Fair?

You may not bring into the Fair:

  • Wagons
  • Skateboards
  • Scooters
  • Drones
  • Remote control toys
  • Inline skates
  • Shoes with built-in wheels
  • Strollers larger than 36" x 52" (92 x 132 cm)
  • Suitcases, coolers or backpacks with or without wheels larger than 24" (61 cm) long x 15" (38 cm) wide x 18" (46 cm) high. Coolers required for medication may be stored at Coat Check.
  • Any trailer-like object that is pushed or towed by an wheelchair or stroller
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Weapons of any kind or objects that appear to be weapons (toy guns, toy blasters, squirt guns, etc.)
  • Folding chairs
  • Glass containers (excluding baby food jars)
  • Pets (unless they are “Service Animals” as defined by the ADA https://www.ada.gov/regs2010/service_animal_qa.html)
  • Balloons
  • Tripod stands or monopod stands that cannot fit inside a standard backpack
  • Wrapped gifts (all gifts must be able to be unwrapped for inspection)
  • Selfie sticks (hand-held extension poles for cameras and mobile devices)

Additional items may also not be permitted.
Please use your best judgment and do not bring anything that may be potentially harmful or disruptive.

Is there an Information Center?

Answers await you inside the Patterson & Sons information booth, opposite the Lobby, in the Grand Concourse.

Where are the Restrooms?

There are two locations of flushable toilets; just below the Grand Concourse, and in Ale House Alley near Mad Sal’s Dockside Ale House. There is also a bank of Privies outside the door by the Samiah Clothing booth in Ale House Alley.

Where do I go regarding Lost and Found?

Have you lost any personal items and want to check if they have been found? Have you found an item you would like to drop off? Visit the Coat and Parcel check across from the Patterson & Sons information booth, in the Grand Concourse. After hours, please email [email protected].

Where do I go for First Aid?

Locate a "London Guest Services” person in Green Jacket and Hat, or any server at a beverage stand, and they will call our onsite EMT.

Is there any Smoking inside the venue?

The Cow Palace is a non-smoking facility. A smoking area is provided outside the main entrance to the Dickens Fair; one may not indulge elsewhere.

Can I leave and come back in?

Visitors to the Fair may leave and re-enter on the same day by receiving a hand stamp upon exit.

How much does the food cost?

Food prices at the Dickens Fair range from desserts/coffee/tea at $2 to full plated meals at $17. Reservation meals at Cuthbert's Tea Shoppe are $27.

No food vendors accept credit cards; there are four ATMs in the event.

Feast on delicious foods from the British Empire and beyond, from scrumptious savories to tempting hand-crafted sweets. Visit one of our 5 traditional pubs to enjoy draft ales, wine, and champagne, or wrap your hands around a Hot Buttered Rum, Irish coffee, or Hot Toddy. Or, enjoy a traditional English High Tea with Scones and little sandwiches - anytime is teatime in Britain!

How do I make reservations for the Tea Parlour?

High Tea is served every day at 4 PM, with reservations required. Due to public demand, the Tea Shoppe is now offering online reservations so patrons of the Fair can make a reservation for tea in advance of their visit. To make a reservation online, visit www.cuthbertsteashoppe.com. Reservations can also be made directly at Cuthbert's at the Fair; when you first arrive at the Fair, please go directly to the Tea Parlour to request your reservation.

Is there food for Vegetarians?

Yes, there are vegetarian options at each food booth inside the event. Please refer to the Food & Drink page on our website for more specific information.

I have allergies; can I bring my own food to the Fair?

You are free to bring food for any seriously picky or allergy-prone person in your group. No picnic baskets, Tupperware, birthday cakes, alcohol, or other outside beverages, except water.

For people with strong peanut allergies or nuts in general, it is important to note that we do have nuts and nut products in our facility.

How do I get Tickets for the Saucy French Postcards Tableaux Revue?

Because the Revue is so popular, we must require a separate free ticket for each show. Free tickets are available at Patterson & Sons' information booth in the Grand Concourse. We recommend getting your ticket early. There are two shows each Fair day, at 5:30 & 6:15. Please note: This show is for adults over 18 years of age. No children are allowed. No photography is allowed.

Do I need Tickets for any other shows?

No. All other shows are included in your Fair admission.

Is there any Public Transportation to the Cow Palace?

Take Bart or Muni to the Glen Park BART Station. The Fair operates a convenient, free Courtesy Shuttle to and from the Glen Park BART station every 30 minutes (at the top and bottom of the hour) from 10:00 AM to 7:00 PM each Fair day.

Cameras, Video, Audio, & Digital Equipment Usage

  • Small personal cameras are permitted, but are subject to inspection. Photos may be taken for your personal use only, except where posted and announced.
  • Video cameras and tripods are not permitted except for pre-approved media workers who have provided credentials. Media requests will be reviewed and honored in advance only.
  • We ask that you use common sense and courtesy when photographing or video taping at the Fair. No intense flash photography (fill only), and remain at a respectful distance from other guests, performers, and stages, etc.

Note: All film, digital, and recording rights are reserved. Commercial film, digital, and sound recordings rights with respect to Red Barn Productions DBA The Great Dickens Christmas Fair, entertainment, and performers and staff are reserved.

Commercial use of any photographs, digital images, audio, tape, or video recordings of, Red Barn Productions DBA The Great Dickens Christmas Fair, without the express written consent of , Red Barn Productions DBA The Great Dickens Christmas Fair or Kevin Patterson CEO is strictly prohibited. All materials contained on our website are protected by United States Copyright law and cannot be reproduced, sold, distributed, transmitted, manipulated, displayed, published, or broadcast without prior written permission.

Can you recommend local Lodging?

For those of you traveling to the fair, check the Lodgings Search page of the San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau's website for accommodations in the San Francisco area, or our own preferred hotels and accommodations page.

Who is Charles Dickens?

Charles Dickens (7 February 1812 – 9 June 1870) was the most celebrated English novelist of the Victorian era, and he remains hugely popular. He is responsible for many of English literature's most iconic characters and some of its favorite stories.

Many of his novels, with their recurrent concern for social reform, first appeared in magazines in serialized form, a popular format at the time. Unlike other authors who completed entire novels before serialization, Dickens often created the episodes as they were being serialized. This practice lent his stories a particular rhythm, punctuated by cliffhangers, that kept the public looking forward to the next installment. The continuing popularity of his novels and short stories is such that they have never gone out of print. To read more, see our Brief History of Dickens' London.

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The Dickens Fair supports these very worthwhile not-for-profit organizations:

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SFMHS Seal-web

The RESCU Foundation

The California District 1-A Agricultural Association Cow Palace

The City & County of San Francisco

Daly City & the County of San Mateo

Jefferson Union High School District & Oceana High School, Pacifica, and Steve Johnson

Steven & Patty Mayer,
SD Mayer & Associates LLP

Cat Taylor Bookkeeping

Praetorian USA, Security & Event Services

Sanow Graphic Design

Heidi Boucher, Everything Visual, Set Design

Liz Martin, Pink Depford, Costume Design Studio

Carol Goodman, Beverage Chaos Events

Don Carson Design Studio

Shannon Damnavits, Matrix Event Marketing

Denise Lamott Publicity & Public Relations

McWilliams Creative Marketing

Janice Harmon, BayCad Event Layout Services

Joe Diamond, InnKeeper Card Services

Lawrence G. Townsend,
Intellectual Property Attorney

Dennis Sullivan, Attorney at Law

Robert Meyer, International Grapevine

Richard Yee, Beppe Sabatini, Robin Fadtke, Philip Pavliger, Stephen Jacobson, photographers

Oakland Audio Visual

Bill Von Arx & David Drennan,
Von Arx Drayage

Holzmueller Productions

Musson Theatrical

Lodi Tent & Awning

Zenith Instant Printing, Novato

Presented in affiliation with the Living History Centre: A California not-for-profit educational corporation dedicated to perpetuating interest in and involvement with the handcrafts, humanities, performing arts, and festivals of the past through the practice of Living History educational and performance techniques. Theatrical workshops for the Fair are sponsored by Red Barn Productions and held at Oceana High School in Pacifica.

 Presented in affiliation with the Guild of St. George:
A California not-for-profit educational corporation dedicated to the study and presentation of Historical Arts, Lives, & Lifestyles, with a focus on Elizabethan England.

Hats Off! to the Crew, Staff, Contractors & Volunteers who design and build the 36th Season of "London in San Francisco" ~

EVENT DESIGN & PRODUCTION:

Producers – Kevin, Leslie & Andrew Patterson

Original Concept – Ron & Phyllis Patterson, 1970

Production Manager – Andrew Patterson

Production Designer – Heidi Boucher

Lighting Designer, Show Electrician & Purchasing Agent – Ed Herny

Master Carpenter – Rory Alden, Alden Set Design & Construction

Graphic Arts – Amanda Sanow, Sanow Design

Set Decorators – Jen Schuler, Mercy Golsarry, Kelly Clark, Amber Franklin, Alexis Orth, Julia Chiesa, Nikki Crump-Hansted

Drapery Design & Installation – Vicky Nebeker Designs, Susan Kennedy, Blue & Jim Davis

Plumbing – Richard “Binky” Small, Rick Small Plumbing

Set Installation – Rory Alden, Del Rio Sepulveda, Peter Morris, Fritz Gaines

London Lighting Installation – Bradford Wilson, Rick Perry, Oscar Granados, Michael Miller, Jonathan Miller, Heidi Gould, Luis Villanueva

Production Assistants – Logan Ramirez, Kevin Tosh, John Stratton

Forklift & Rig Logistics – Jon Andonie

Signs & Calligraphy – Nell Blackwell, The Whatever Works

Scenic Artists – Anya Kazimerski, Chriss Jee, Amy Brodersen

Theatrical Rigging – Vincent Glass, Austin Zuffi, Carl Zwanzig

Warehouse & Shipping – Jason Worel

OPERATIONS & ENTERTAINMENT:

Operations Manager – Mark Solum

Entertainment Director & Missives Manager – Cat Taylor

Street Theatre, Special Performance & LHC Educational Director – Robert Young

Entertainment Dept. Assistant – Rickie Bolin

800 Performers, Directors & Teachers!

Show & Environmental Theater Directors – Jason Adajian, Gina Alonzo, Tanya Anguita, Kathleen Bartholemew, Anna Benincasa, Shelby Bond, Auralie Bradley, Rob Bradshaw, Shirleigh Brannon, Shanti Cale, Chris Callahan, Michael Cawelti, George Chlentzos, Joe Cinelli, Kaellie Clein-Cunningham, Bob Crabb, Terri Crabb, Jay Davis, Rydell Downward, Erin Duggan, Robin Edwards-Harvey, Jennifer Erlichman, Paul Fuller, Juliana Gaul, Miles Gilster, Devin Gregory, Beth Hanscom, Ellen Hoffman, Cynthia Howell, Jeremiah Johnston, Kathy Kingman, Benjamin Knoll, Barry Koron, Brendan Lee, Cindy Lu, Scott Lundholm, Chris Marshall, Morgan McDow, Michael McPherron, Greg Medley, Shelley Monson, Steve Morales, Jennifer Damico Murphy, Kim Murphy, Mackenzie Laurel Orvis, Brian Patterson, Ed Pizzini, Barbara Pond, Cyrus Pynn, Pam Riby, Therese Porter, Will Rontani, Thea Ruoho, Elizabeth Schluntz, Meredith Sherwin, Harry Steeper, Deirdre Stretton, David Strong, Heather Swarner, B. Todi, Bryn Tucker, Mimi Walker, Juanita Watkins, Jeffrey Weissman, Heidi Wohlwend, Will Wood, Diana Young, Jennifer Young, Mike Young

The Band at Fezziwig's – Bangers & Mash

Our Pianists – Barry Koron, Win Meyerson, Ellen Hoffman, Tish Diaz, Mavis Hirohara, Paul Zawilski

Greenroom Coordination – Rob Bradshaw

ASL Interpreter – Kate Livingston

Parents' Co-Op – Deborah Moyer

Fair Stage & Sound Manager – Alejandro Romero

Stage Management & Technical Assistants – Jamie Foster, Arielle Kesweder, Aiden Crabb, Lisa Browning, Alice "Thistle" Davis, Joseph Jarecki, Lisa Immel, Joel Browning, Tymn Urban, Will Lamers, Christina Sturken, Jonathan Williamson, Hannah Rokni

Beverage & Catering Coordinator – Carol Goodman

Draught Specialist – Jason Worel

Tavern Managers – Ron Collins, Bob McGowan, Rachel Clein-Cunningham, Nathalie Starr, Christina Scherer, Kathi Richards, Megan Stewart, Brian Garvey, Frank Macdonald, Jessica Williams

Beverage Build Crew - Jason Worel, Kathleen Morris, Brennan Shreves, Rebecca Miller, Frank Macdonald, John Butterfield, William Grant

Keg Crew - Jason Worel, Mercy Golsarry, Brennan Shreves, Jonathan Andonie, Frank Macdonald, William Grant, Luis Villanueva, Peter Morris, Katy Frazier

Costumes Designer & Director – Liz Martin;
Assistant Director – Alexandria Volk

Costume Shop – Scott Pennington, Cat Haltnor, Terianne Porter, Liesl Seitz Buchbinder, Mae Matos, Jacqueline Palacios, Lynn Downward, Dell Peterson, Dale Peterson, Kelly Dunlap, Camar Janke, May Fendell, Jeanine Bowman, Rachael Heinman, Becca Jefferies

Security – Supervisor Hannah Early & the London Guest Services team

Merchandise Store – Amber Franklin, Manager; Liliana Rodriguez

Maintenance – Supervisor Kevin Bennett & his hardworking Street Sweepers

Will-Call, Coat Check, Pass House & Front Gate – Jeff & Lovena DeCamp, Devon Moore, Aileen, James & Charles Day, Holly & Laura Hobsen, Lindsay Dean, Evan Greenberg, Hilary Kaseman

Contributing Writers – Therese Porter, David Hakim, Amanda Sanow, Shannon Damnavits

Special Promotions – Chase Williams, Liz Pasha

And all the Fair bloggers, for spreading the word and the joy!

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