Downtown Riverside will be transformed into Victorian-era London this weekend for the 26th annual “Dickens Festival,” celebrating the life and times of novelist Charles Dickens.
The Main Street pedestrian mall, between University Avenue and 10th Street, will be the hub of activity Saturday and Sunday, teeming with more than 150 characters straight out of Dickens’ 19th century classics.
The fest’s 2019 celebration will be centered on Dickens’ eighth novel, “David Copperfield,” featuring theatrical performances, pageants, seances, music, speeches, historical recreations and children’s activities.
The festival will formally get underway at 10 a.m. Saturday outside Riverside City Hall, at Ninth and Main streets, where visitors will encounter actors representing Dickens, Queen Victoria, Bram Stoker, Mark Twain, H.G. Wells, Oscar Wilde, Edgar Allen Poe, Emily Dickinson, Jules Verne, Emily Bronte, Mary Shelley and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle — to name a few.
From 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Oliver’s Alley will be open, featuring storytelling and songs, along with tea parties, balloon-making and children’s games.
A “grand parade,” populated by Dickens’ characters and other Victorians, will be staged along Main Street between 11:45 a.m. and 12:15 p.m.
New this year is a mind-reading show, with performances set for 11:30 a.m., 2:15 p.m. and 4:15 p.m. in the First Congregational Church, 3504 Mission Inn Ave. Another addition to the program, also at the church, is the “Soirees Mystique” Victorian séance show, set for 10:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 3:15 p.m. Saturday, during which Professor V. Ian Elan will “travel beyond the veil” to entertain up to 24 guests per show with the inside methods of Victorian-era mediums.
An “authors’ salon” will run all day long, with readings and Q&A’s hosted by re-enactors for Mark Twain, Jane Austen, Mary Shelley, Louisa May Alcott, Robert Louis Stephenson and others.
At 1:15 p.m., the Royal Victorian Theatre will present “David Copperfield and Dickens,” with experts and educators on hand.
Merchants will sell food and wares reminiscent of a 19th century London bazaar throughout the day, interspersed with caroling and dancing, along the pedestrian mall.
Most of the same entertainment will be available Sunday, which will also feature a David Copperfield play about 1:30 p.m. at Hyde Park Corner, near Main and University, and a 2 p.m. “steampunk” — sci-fi — fashion show at the Universalist Unitarian Church, 3525 Mission Inn Ave.
The weekend-long event will close with parting words from the queen and the recreated Dickens about 5 p.m. outside City Hall.
More information is available at www.dickensfest.com .