Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and Great Dickens Christmas Fair director Kevin Patterson, right, greet guests on the first weekend of the holiday attraction at the Cow Palace. (Leslie Katz/S.F. Examiner)

Victorian Christmas in full swing at Dickens fair at the Cow Palace

Charles Dickens, greeting guests in his home at the Great Dickens Christmas Fair in its first weekend at the Cow Palace in Daly City, wouldn’t name which of his books is favorite.

“That would be like asking a mother about her children, but I’m told by readers that they like ‘A Christmas Carol,’” said the literary great, whose Victorian world supplies the setting for the interactive living history theatrical attraction.

On Sunday, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert briefly stopped by Tavistock House, Dickens’ London residence, where tea (complete with cucumber sandwiches and mincemeat tarts) was being served. German-born Albert, admiring the Christmas tree, shared how he helped introduce to the holiday tradition to England.

Also on hand for tea service was Kevin Patterson, 21st century executive director of the Dickens’ fair, son of founders Ron and Phyllis Patterson, who also created the Renaissance Pleasure Faire.

“There’s nothing else like this anywhere,” said Patterson, who has continued the family business, producing the fair – a 20,000-square foot “city” with music halls, pubs, dance floors and shops selling clothing, jewelry, knives, glass and more — with his wife and children since 2000.

He said the fair’s ongoing success has much to do with its hundreds of enthusiastic, educated, experienced volunteers dedicated to re-creating the era with authenticity.

Mentioning that the fair, liking Burning Man, is something difficult to describe, and must be experienced to get its full effect, Patterson has this suggestion for first-time visitors: “Get lost in it – it’s as big as London.”

IF YOU GO
Great Dickens Christmas Fair
Where: Cow Palace, 2600 Geneva Ave., Daly City
When: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday-Sundays (plus Friday Nov. 23); through Dec. 23
Tickets: $10 to $30; $12 parking
Contact: dickensfair.com

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