Heritage, Volume 5, Number 3, Autumn 1987 Page: 8
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Not only does GHF provide costuming information,
volunteers are encouraged to learn to "speak as the British
speak" as a highly entertaining workshop planned to help
Americans with this difficult language! "'ello, luv, 'ow
bout some 'ot chestnuts?" and other such essential phrases
are practiced with transported Britains who give of their
talents for this important purpose on yet another October
Once everyone is speaking with a British accent and
properly dressed, it is time to roast turkey legs and cook
up Scotch eggs, bake plum pudding and mull some wine.
The foods and beverages of Dickens On The Strand are
special indeed. The Strand has an ever-growing number of
fine restaurants, delicatessens and night spots. Special
Dickens foods and beverages at these establishments are
supplemented by booths and vendors selling everything
from cider to Norfolk biffins. The Tremont House, an
intimate European-style hotel in the district, serves up the
Dickens Feast each year (reservations in advance are
required). The 1859 Italianate mansion Ashton Villa gets
guests off to the right start with Morning Tea in the ballroom,
where guests dine on pecan scones and blueberry
crepes, accompanied by the music of a string quartet. The
Daughters of the British Empire prepare family recipes of
Dundee Cake and delicious tarts for the refreshment of
visitors to their tearoom. No hunger is left unsatiated, no
thirst unquenched at Dickens on The Strand!
Many visitors prefer to munch their turkey legs as they
enjoy the vast variety of entertainment on stages and street
covers throughout the festival area. There are games to
play, an elephant to ride, dancers, mimes, jugglers and the
Texas Cyclemen mounted on their big wheel bicycles.
Carolers remind the crowds that Christmas is just a few
weeks away, and Tiny Tim and Bob Crachit are reminders
of what the holiday is all about. Each afternoon, the
Dickens characters follow a carriage carrying Her Majesty
Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in a parade down
The Strand. Bagpipers join the procession along with a
myriad of colorfully costumed ladies and gentlemen tracing
the steps where Galvestonians shopped and carried on
business a century ago.
A second parade occurs a few hours later. There are
fewer characters in this parade, but what they lack in number,
they make up in size! The Budweiser Clydesdales
from Anheuser Busch delight the crowd with their custommade
harnessware of leather and brass. The 8-horse hitch
of 2,000 pound animals is another link to the wharf of
London in the 19th century. Bred as workhorses, these
horses provided the muscle to unload sailing ships and
pull wagonloads back and forth between warehouses and
docks. Known around the world for their appearances at
special events and on television, the impeccably groomed
Clydesdales are on view to visitors in their temporary
festival stables between parades.
No description of the delights of Dickens would be
complete without the Dickens Handbell Festival. For the
sixth year, bellringers from across the state will assemble
in Galveston to participate in what has become the world's
largest outdoor handbell concert. Over 300 ringers, all in
Victorian costume, from some 30 bellchoirs, will perform
4 lantern light concerts beneath the giant Tannenbaum on
Saturday, December 5. The thirty minute concerts begin at
5 p.m. just as the December sun begins to fade. As the first
notes ring out, a hush falls over the festival crowd. The
almost indescribable beauty of this outdoor concert,
where notes float out of the breeze and lantern light glows
on the intent faces of the ringers, never fails to thrill.
The handbell concerts are also a contest sponsored by
Eastman Kodak. Choirs compete for the title of "outstanding
handbell choir of the year" and group and individual
prizes are awarded. The judging is based on a combination
of best ringing performance and best costuming. A
children's handbell choir festival made its debut last
year, and is expected to grow in popularity as the adult
festival has in just five years.
In addition to individual handbell choir performances,
the festival is always "humming" with musical performances.
Harps, trumpets, violins, dulcimers, tambourines
and harpsichords soon have toes tapping and hands
clapping. Dickens weekend is traditionally kicked off
with a musical performance . . . the Grand 1894 Opera
House performance of a musical version of A Christmas
Carol on Friday, December 4 at 8 p.m. and Saturday at 10
a.m. The recently restored landmark theatre is the perfect
setting for this holiday favorite.
The continuing support of The Grand is the goal
behind the sale of British treats by "Grand" volunteers
during Dickens On The Strand. Over 30 community organizations
use the Dickens Festival as an opportunity for
raising funds for their non-profit charity or organization.
The variety of activities is limited only by the imagination
of the organizations! A softball team raises funds with Ye
Olde Beefsteaks, and Galveston's Hospice brings in the
Overland Coach for exciting rides through the festival
streets. Still others offer handcrafted gift items for sale.
Dickens On The Strand is a great place to do some
holiday shopping. Strand shops are filled with unique gift
ideas, and booths and street vendors add to that selection.
GHF screens each vendor's food or gift item, game or
entertainment for Victorian appropriateness. This strict
adherence to the theme is a hallmark of Dickens On The
Right down to hand cancellation of Christmas cards at
the Dickens Post Station by volunteer employees of the
United States Postal Service, visitors can enjoy a 19th
century experience. For the third consecutive year, employees
of Galveston's main Post Office have designed a
special Dickens cancellation, the exact design yet to be
unveiled. Sets of event covers will also be available. Last
year's cancellation commemorated the Tall Ship for
Texas, ELISSA's historic voyage to the Statue of Liberty
Centennial in New York, July 4, 1986. Event covers featured
the three museum properties of GHF: Ashton Villa,
ELISSA and the 1839 Samuel May Williams Home.
Hundreds of Dickens visitors will bring their holiday
greeting cards to the Post Station for the keepsake cancel
lation, while others will purchase Dickens 1987 Christmas
cards from still another community organization nearby
before having them stamped and cancelled. Postal
Service employees, dressed in Victorian costume, man the
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 5, Number 3, Autumn 1987, periodical, Autumn 1987; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45439/m1/8/: accessed May 25, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.