Riverside's Ye Olde Dickens Fest

Play at being a Victorian at a long-running Riverside romp.

A WRITERLY CELEBRATION: Plenty of modern authors get feted on a regular basis, whether at bookstore signings or fan conventions. But what of the writer who has been gone for nearly a century and a half? The conventions are fewer, and his legacy is conscripted to lecture halls and the occasional made-for-television miniseries. Charles Dickens, however, is another matter entirely. Not only do fans regularly gather for an entire weekend to pay tribute to the man behind "A Tale of Two Cities" and "Great Expectations," but they do so in the colorful and riotous manner that one Fezziwig might have. (Mr. Fezziwig, of course, was the kindly reveler who once employed a certain Ebenezer Scrooge.) The annual Dickens Festival in Riverside can be scholarly, certainly, but people like to dress up and enter a mode of full Victoriana, lending the weekend affair a whiff of whimsy. And if you're in the Inland Empire city over the first weekend in February, you can help lend that whiff as well.

ON THE SCHEDULE: The high-spirited tea party with Queen Victoria always draws much attention over the weekend, but there are other Twist-ian to-dos. Evensong is lovely -- think readings and music -- and Sleary's Circus is full of old-fashioned buskery. (What would a Dickens story be without some lively street clowning and/or actions?) And it goes without mention that Pickwick's Pub Night is not unpopular (we just said it goes without saying and yet we said it; Mr. Dickens would probably take us to task over contradicting ourselves, and rightly so). Tickets are available now for the downtown-based events. And since the fest is a two-day thing -- Feb. 2 and 3 -- you might want to look into accommodations. The Mission Inn, which is perfectly castle-like and fancily foreboding, is nearby.

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