By Ron Merk and Ozgur Pamukcu
It’s not easy to “review” a fair. What do you talk about? The rides, the food, the games, the entertainments? But in the case of the Great Dickens Christmas Fair, we decided to go as a team (like Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson, perhaps) back in time to Victorian London, and the time of Charles Dickens.
Once inside and away from the bright daylight of Daly City, and walking around the amazing reproduction of London in the late 19th Century, with its gaslight milieu, it was very easy for us to leave behind the modern world and slip into a world long lost to time, but not lost to memory and the incredible invention of the Great Dickens Christmas Fair creators, designers and performers.
Sawdust on the floor, warm lighting, large painted backdrops of London in the late 1800s, and accurately costumed “actors” walking around, interacting with guests “in character” complete with British accents, all served to create the illusion the city of London at Christmas time more than 100 years ago. It is this perfect combination of elements that helped us suspend our disbelief and slip away to another time and place where we found ourselves having conversations with the “citizens” of that time, and even speaking about “current events” of their time or their attitudes toward life in general. Oh, yes, there’s food of the period, too, whose aroma filled the air wherever you walk in this great recreation of Christmas past.
“Invited to high tea, I had the unique opportunity to spend lots of time with Buffalo Bill Cody, visiting London with his Wild West Show. The man “playing” him in this wonderful pantomime was, indeed, versed both in the facts and the feel of the man, himself. Right down to the long white hair, moustache and goatee, his costume and speaking style, Col. Cody was as real to me as if he has walked out of history and arrived via a time machine. Down the hall, H.G.Wells was giving a lecture, and I intended to ask him more about his theories of time travel, but I was interrupted from my query by the arrival of two characters from “A Christmas Carol,” The Ghost of Christmas Present, with whom Ebenezer Scrooge was tagging along. Charles Dickens, himself, was present at the tea, but always surrounded by so many fans and well-wishers, I never got close enough to him to have a talk, but promised myself that I’d catch up with him next time.” Ron Merk
“As a visitor from Turkey to both the United States, and the Dickens’ London, I had the unique perspective of someone coming from a totally different culture and tradition when I walked into the world of Victorian London and the Great Dickens Christmas Fair. I had no reference whatsoever as to what I might expect, except for having seen the great 1951 version of “A Christmas Carol,” on Turkish TV, dubbed in Turkish. In many ways, seeing Mr. Dickens and a number of the characters from his novels walking around like real, live people at the fair, gave me a unique vision of the very unique view that Dickens’ had of his time, the social structure and problems, and how his stories could act as political tracts at the same time as being great world literature. Coming from a country that loves tea, I had the most wonderful experience sipping tea from fine bone china at Mr. Dickens’ high tea, and of course, I kept filling my plate up with cucumber sandwiches, little scones, mini mincemeat pies, and all the delightful baked goods of the period. A love French parlour maid even brought me a small glass of port wine, which was the perfect ending to my enjoyment of high tea.” Ozgur Pamukcu
There were so many shows and entertainments for the family and children, we didn’t have time to see them all in their entirety. Melodramas, children’s stories, bawdy dancehall girls, street buskers and even puppet shows and a merry-go-round made with stuffed animals gave us both reason to return to The Great Dickens Christmas Fair, to tell our friends, and yes, to ask them along for yet another visit to this wonderfully recreated world of the past, a past that is still with us in so many ways as part of our modern celebration of Christmas, thanks to the wonderful quill of Mr. Dickens and the amazing vision and skill of the creators of this fair, which is so aptly named after him. Run, don’t walk, to the nearest entrance, and bring the children, and your appetite for a unique cultural experience, and some wonderful food. But hurry, the fair ends soon, and you don’t want to miss it. The fair runs for five weekends, ending on December 22, 2013. Read more at: www.dickensfair.com