Photo Gallery: A drive through the Great Dickens Christmas Fair

Dec. 24, 2021, 4:04 p.m.

Don’t let COVID-19 steal your holiday cheer! The Great Dickens Christmas Fair at Daly City’s Cow Palace is an annual monthlong tradition that will magically transport you to London during the age of Charles Dickens. Mingle with 19th-century Londonites dressed in traditional Victorian garb as they greet you with an authentic cockney accent. Stroll through hay-laden walkways filled with Dickens’ characters like Bob Crachit, Jacob Marley and Tiny Tim — all while feasting on Christmas pudding.

Due to the pandemic, organizers modified this year’s event so visitors can enjoy 19th century London from the pandemic-friendly comfort of their car (or “carriage,” according to the event’s brochure). 

A horse-drawn carriage with two men rides down the street with orange safety cones in front of them.
Along the way, Victorian characters in carriages added whimsical fun to the drive-thru traffic. (Photo: CAROLYN CONSIDINE/The Stanford Daily)
A woman dressed in 19th century British clothing walks in the foreground while a British flag, a carriage, and Christmas trees line the background.
The spirit of Christmas pervades the drive with holiday trees and presents lining the route. (Photo: CAROLYN CONSIDINE/The Stanford Daily)

Nonetheless, this drive-in adventure is sure to ignite the Christmas spirit in everyone. Even Ebenezer Scrooge might crack a smile. When I entered the parking lot at the Cow Palace, I was greeted by a large “Welcome to Dickens’ London” banner and a plethora of English flags.

A sign reads "welcome to Dickens' London" between two British flags.
The welcome banner and Union Jacks signal the entrance to 19th century London. (Photo> CAROLYN CONSIDINE/The Stanford Daily)

After a quick stop to place your food order — I highly recommend the fish and chips, Christmas pudding, and hot cocoa — I drove down a ramp and entered the Mad Sal’s Dock Yards. 

A downward sloped road is lined with British flags.
Cars head down the roadway for some Dickens entertainment. (Photo: CAROLYN CONSIDINE/The Stanford Daily)
A group of musicians dressed in 19th century British attire perform on a stage.
Mad Sal’s Dock Yards musicians play for an audience of packed cars in the Drive Thru Dickens’ London Fair. (Photo: CAROLYN CONSIDINE/The Stanford Daily)

It was at Mad Sal’s that I came face-to-face with a group of hard-working chimney-sweepers, covered with soot after a long day’s work. 

A man dressed as a chimney sweeper leans close to the camera.
A chimney sweeper, Devin Gregory, tells comical stories to drivers passing by. (Photo: CAROLYN CONSIDINE/The Stanford Daily)

They kindly remind you to turn your radio to 89.1 FM, to listen along to English holiday music while you take in the sights. One member of the chimney sweeper gang, Devin Gregory, expressed his excitement about the event.

 “This is the best Christmas party,” Gregory said. “I’m here with my mates. This is what Christmas is supposed to be about.” 

A man dressed as Dickens' Ghost of Jacob Marley walks across a stage designed to look like the home of Ebenezer Scrooge.
Drivers are spooked by the haunting Ghost of Jacob Marley walking through Scrooge’s home. (Photo: CAROLYN CONSIDINE/The Stanford Daily)
A man dressed as Dickens' Ghost of Christmas Present stands by a large painting of a book. The text in the book reads: 
"Chapter Three
The Ghost of Christmas Present Escorts Scrooge
The Ghost of Christmas Present wanders with Scrooge through London, enjoying the fellowship of Christmas that lightens all hearts.
The jolly spirit visits the bustling docks and brightens the already warm and festive mood.
Singing and merriment abound, enlivened by the Ghost's own infectious mirth!"
The jovial Ghost of Christmas Present from “A Christmas Carol,” sends cheer to drivers viewing one of the Dickens’ Fair’s tableaux scenes. (Photo: CAROLYN CONSIDINE/The Stanford Daily)

As my chariot propels forward to the later tableaux vivant, Scrooge shakes hands with Bob Crachit before proclaiming “I will double your wages.” 

On stage, a man dressed as Dickens' Bob Cratchit shakes the hand of another man dressed as Ebenezer Scrooge.
In disbelief, Bob Cratchit shakes Scrooge’s hand after receiving a raise. (Photo: CAROLYN CONSIDINE/The Stanford Daily)

Later, Scrooge’s Third Spirit reminded me that my tomorrow is never defined by my past. Perhaps that’s what inspired organizers to make such bold changes to this year’s fair. Food line worker Kirsten Upchurch echoed this view. “The changed program has been a wonderful learning experience for us,” she said.  

On a stage designed to be a cemetery, a man dressed as Ebenezer Scrooge looks at gravestones while a hooded figure watches.
Scrooge contemplates life at his gravestone. (Photo: CAROLYN CONSIDINE/The Stanford Daily)

After delighting in a few more compelling scenes of London, my journey ended at the Convent Garden stage where a chimney sweeper playfully converted car horns into music. Fellow travelers devoured their hearty London suppers in an open-air environment.

A group of people dressed in 19th century English attire perform on stage.
At Pennygaff’s Stage, merry music heightens the holiday spirit. (Photo: CAROLYN CONSIDINE/The Stanford Daily)
Two trucks sit below a sign that reads, "The Grand Concourse."
Cars wait in line for the next Dickens stage delight. (Photo: CAROLYN CONSIDINE/The Stanford Daily)
Cars sit parked in front of a stage that displays part of a sign that reads "Covent Garden Theatre."
At the Covent Garden Theatre cars line up like a drive-in movie to watch the festivities and applaud with honking horns. (Photo: CAROLYN CONSIDINE/The Stanford Daily)

So if you want to get into the holiday spirit, a visit to “Drive Through Dickens” might be just the event for you. It is certainly no “ba humbug” event. Tickets went quickly so save the date for a holiday tradition next year. This event is truly a COVID-friendly Christmas miracle.

Carolyn Considine is a high schooler writing as part of The Daily’s Winter Journalism Workshop.

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