Major Ye Olde Ruckus Dons Its Yearly Top Hat

Whether you catch five minutes of "A Christmas Carol" while channel surfing every December, or you know every page of Dickens' works word for word (no tiny feat), there's probably something about the Riverside Dickens Festival that would appeal.

The annual party is a huge, three-day affair that spreads out around downtown Riverside (home to the glorious Mission Inn, natch). Buskers -- picture the type of performers who might have amused at Covent Garden during the Victorian era -- take to the streets on stilts, while lavish balls and beginners' dance classes unfurl here and there. There's a full-on fashion show dripping with frippery, and while we've always been partial to those old-fashioned bustles ourselves, finding a seat on the metro in one of those contraptions is nearly as hard as walking a cobblestone street in the dark. The Pickwick's Pub Night also intrigues, because you know writers in good Charlie's day really favored their ale. Ales, plural, should we say.

While the festival might at first glance seem like a soiree for the serious scholar, it is for people like to dress up at the drop of a (top) hat -- a truly huge contingent in Southern California, the weekend dresser-uppers -- as well as Anglophiles, readers, history buffs, and anyone who'd like a trip to England but doesn't quite have the airfare together at the moment. It's big, it's varied, and even Dickens himself might kick up his booted heels at one of the many events. In fact, we're guessing we might see Dickens, or at least a Scrooge or two, around town.

Riverside Dickens Festival
February 6-8
Downtown Riverside

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