Downtown Riverside will be transformed into Victorian-era London Saturday and Sunday for the 27th annual “Dickens Festival,” celebrating the life and times of novelist Charles Dickens.
The Main Street pedestrian mall, between Mission Inn Avenue and 11th Street, will be the hub of activity, teeming with more than 150 characters straight out of Dickens’ 19th century classics.
The fest’s 2020 celebration will be centered on Dickens’ 12th novel, “A Tale of Two Cities,” featuring theatrical performances, pageants, music, speeches, historical recreations and children’s activities.
The festival will formally get underway at 10 a.m. 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, Louisa May Alcott, Jules Verne, Emily Bronte, Mary Shelley and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle — to name a few.
From 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Hyde Park Corner will be open, featuring storytelling, debates, recitations and jigs.
A “grand parade,” populated by Dickens’ characters and other Victorians, will be staged along Main Street between noon and 12:30 p.m.
New this year will be a presentation on the life of Alcott, who authored “Little Women” and before her death at age 56 busied herself as a Union Army nurse, actress, suffragette and world traveler.
An “Authors’ Salon” will run throughout the day, with readings and Q&A’s hosted by re-enactors for Twain, Jane Austen, Shelley, Poe, Robert Louis Stephenson, Harriet Beecher Stowe and P.T. Barnum.
At 1:15 p.m., the Royal Victorian Theatre will present “A Dinner at Dickens’ House,” with experts and educators providing lively narratives on what it typically was like under the roof of the legendary scribe’s abode, with 10 children coming and going night and day.
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 at 2 p.m. will feature a “steampunk” — sci-fi — fashion show titled “It’s About Time” 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 at 5 p.m. outside City Hall.
More information is available at www.dickensfest.com .