Arts and Entertainment

Annual Great Dickens Christmas Fair a ‘Living Victorian Christmas Card’

The annual Great Dickens Christmas Fair at the Cow Palace will be even more beautiful than ever, the fair’s executive director and CEO Kevin Patterson said, adding that it will be very much the “living Victorian Christmas card” his mother Phyllis Patterson envisioned more than 40 years ago.

COURTESY OF KEVIN PATTERSON

COURTESY OF KEVIN PATTERSON

The annual Great Dickens Christmas Fair at the Cow Palace will be even more beautiful than ever, the fair’s executive director and CEO Kevin Patterson said, adding that it will be very much the “living Victorian Christmas card” his mother Phyllis Patterson envisioned more than 40 years ago.

Patterson and his wife carry on the fair now that his mother and father have passed on. Ron Patterson died three years ago and Phyllis this past year.

“Actually, my wife and I have been at the helm in charge for the past 15 years, as my mom enjoyed watching us and the crew put everything together.” Patterson explained that as a live theatrical event, often referred to as he called it, “total sensory immersion theater; it is different each year.”

Creating a Victorian slice of life based upon the expansive literature of Charles Dickens’ 19th Century London is a challenge. Yet as Patterson explained, “It is a labor of love and was always something my mom (and dad) looked forward to.” He did say that with his mom’s passing and now the second generation is in command, “there will be a deeper sense of gratitude and appreciation, than ever before.”

Phyllis and Ron were always grateful, especially when, as Patterson said, “there were a few years when we thought there might not be a Dickens Fair.”

Phyllis had explained to this reporter when writing about the Dickens Fair for the very first time, almost a decade ago, that the entire idea originated simply as a holiday party at home. She had wanted to have a theme party to invite some friends over and thought why not make the them a like a Victorian Christmas card?

Then the idea of “A Christmas Carol” and Dickens soon followed; because the very next year after that party, friends and neighbors she had invited insisted she do the same again.

The idea caught on as it kept growing. Each year it gained a little more and a little more, eventually requiring that it find a more suitable and permanent home. It out-grew Fort Mason and when the Fair settled in to the Cow Palace it was just the right fit.

The Pattersons who also originated the Renaissance Fair, had offered it to a Chicago based production company to take it over.

“They bought the rights and such for our Renaissance Fair,” Kevin Patterson said, “but they just could not accept or understand the Dickens Fair.”

“They could not envision it, because he said, they saw only ‘the cost’ point of view. We saw the Dickens Fair as a labor of love,” said Patterson. “For us having the Dickens Fair was a way to keep all of our actors, performers, musicians and vendors busy and working during the winter season.”

With close to 800 people in the cast and production, the Dickens Fair and their associates are truly a large family.

Patterson noted that as a major on-going production, the fair never really stops. It rests but rehearsals, auditions, set designs, props are always in process through out the year. This year The Music Hall show will be presenting a new “classic British comedic song and dance review” as he described it.

Patterson reiterated that the annual Christmas Fair is in fine form and is ready to share some of its theatrically magical holiday cheer. “The traditional things that people come to expect from the Fair will be as always,” he said.

Tickets are now on sale. The Great Dickens Christmas Fair will begin the day after Halloween and will continue for five weekends from Nov. 22 to Dec. 21.

For more information, please visit the Dickens Fair website.

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