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Dickens on the Strand events returning tomorrow, Friday Dec. 5th; continuing all weekend


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Yes, Dickens on the Strand is returning this weekend, with special events beginning tomorrow, Friday, December 5th!

WHAT: Dickens on the Strand

WHEN: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Dec. 6 and 7

WHERE: Historic downtown Galveston

TICKETS: www.dickensonthestrand.org

Tickets are also available at 110 Houston/Galveston area Kroger food stores. There is also information about rooms still available on the Island and at points north - click here.

For more information about Galveston Historical Foundation, visit www.galvestonhistory.org.

It will be the first major event to be held in Galveston's historic downtown in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike.

Galveston Historical Foundation is now working with business owners, homeowners, city leaders, national foundations and federal agencies to rebuild historic Galveston once again.

Dickens on The Strand is the principal annual fund-raising event of Galveston Historical Foundation, which administers numerous historic properties on the island and provides an array of services to residents. For example, GHF has just distributed truckloads of drywall to low- and moderate-income island residents to help them repair their hurricane-damaged homes.

So, your ticket purchase buys much more than a chance to enjoy this venerable Victorian holiday festival.

The decision to go forward with the event in light of the downtown devastation wrought by Ike might seem surprising, but the foundation didn't hesitate.

"We decided that the community needed it, and that GHF needed it," said Clay Wade, the foundation's director of events. "All of us at GHF felt the strong need to continue with the tradition that is the grand holiday event for Galveston."

Even before the hurricane pounded the island, the foundation had been considering a few changes in the festival.

"We've been giving a lot of thought over the last few years to bringing Dickens back to where it started," Wade said. "We wanted to bring back the sort-of homespun aspect that everybody enjoyed.

"Little did we know that Ike would help us do that."

A number of new features had been planned for this year, including Victorian bed races, an expanded version of last year's exhibit from the Charles Dickens Museum in London, and an effort by the festival to "go green." Those will have to wait until next year, but a great many aspects of the event will be unchanged.

"Some of our entertainers have been coming for 20, 25 years," Wade said. "We have several who have agreed to come at no fee this year just because they believe in this event."

Many vendors are returning, as are longtime supporters such as oilman and philanthropist George Mitchell.

"Mr. Mitchell's company is a huge sponsor of ours, and they are supporting us 100 percent," Wade said.

Many of the festival's familiar sights will be on view, as well, a development that might well be seen as miraculous.

"Our salvage warehouse over on Mechanic Street had about 10 feet of water in it, and in that warehouse were all of our props for Dickens," Wade said. "According to our hurricane plans, that's also where we park our vehicles during a storm, so all three of them went underwater.

"We also had 400 kerosene lanterns that we use for the event in the nighttime, and we had a drum of kerosene. So all of that got mixed in with the salt water and sand and muck and everything else.

"But, amazingly, once the remediation team was done, we had lost very few props."

Wade, a sixth-generation Galvestonian, did note one thing that will be different about Galveston's post-Ike Dickens compared to the early versions of the festival first held in the 1970s, when Galveston's then neglected downtown was becoming the primary focal point for Galveston Historical Foundation's preservation efforts. In those early days, the festival was held at night, and the empty commercial buildings were lit with lanterns. The idea was to present the buildings in a romantic light and to hide their flaws in the darkness.

"We're going to hold Dickens 2008 in the daylight, so that people can see what's going on, and that Galveston is going to come back," Wade said.

"As in the beginning with Dickens, the whole point of this was to bring attention to the architecture of downtown. It became a backdrop for the festival, which is what it will be again this year."

Even as new visitors have joined the revelers at Dickens during each of its 35 years, many people have returned year after year, making the festival an indispensable part of their holiday observances.

"We're depending upon them to do the same thing this year," Wade said.

"Everybody's in it together."

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Just an update to let folks know that this was a resounding success, beyond the GHF's hopes for attendance. Some great performances (will get some up on YouTube in the next several weeks), the parade, lots of fun, and really, you could almost forget that Ike had arrived last September. We can only hope Mardi Gras will be good for them, too!

Here's a piece from the Galveston Co. Daily News -

Dickens on The Strand better than most expected

By Laura Elder

The Daily News

Published December 8, 2008


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