The best-dressed merchants in Myrtle Beach won’t be wearing (or selling) T-shirts next weekend. They’re more likely to be garbed in stovepipe hats or bonnets, cut-away jackets or floor-length dresses. The look is strictly Victorian for this season.
The Dickens Christmas Show & Festival, staged Nov. 12-15 at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center, is a commercial but Smurf-free extravaganza for holiday shopping. It’s now in its 34th year, and all 350-some vendors dress in 19th-century garb, from men in frock coats to women attired in hoop-skirt finery or dressed as parlor maids.
Given the size of the Myrtle Beach show – it’s in a 100,000-square-foot exhibit hall – you’re going to get quite an eye-full of an approximation of Charles Dickens’ London. The marketplace is dressed as well, its walls decorated with 3-D rowhouses, churches and shops; the back wall is covered with a 210-foot panorama emulating a snow-covered, circa-1880 London street scene.
Merchandise includes a wide range of gift items: holiday decor and foodstuffs, jewelry, apparel, home furnishings and so on.
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Also there: strolling musicians, Punch and Judy shows, a Victorian tea-leaf reader, “street urchins,” readers of tea leaves and an appearance of St. Nicholas (aka Santa Claus in America and, in traditional British lore, Father Christmas), who will greet shoppers who stop by his Victorian castle.
To put the famed gift-giver in perspective, marketplace displays include a life-size “Historic Santas Through the Ages” exhibit.
Expect crowds, by the way: The event attracts about 15,000 visitors over its four days. New this year: Santa photo ops with miniature horses and donkeys from the Barnabas Horse Foundation.
And there are off-site events. Opening day from the convention hall, there’s a guided bus tour that heads down U.S. 17 for a Christmas, culinary and museum tour of Charleston; the $125 cost includes a cooking-school session, lunch and admission to museums. A Saturday tour heads to Marion, S.C., to the Grove mansion and gardens and other attractions ($95).
In Myrtle Beach, Victorian-menu holiday teas are staged – a luncheon tea ($35) Friday and Saturday; a 3:30 p.m. high tea ($27) Friday. All feature a one-man performance by British actor Howard Burnham of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.”
The weekend coincides with the second week of live holiday shows at Grand Strand venues – high-kicking chorus girls at the new “Christmas Wonderlands” at the Palace Theatre; holiday-music revues at Alabama Theatre and Carolina Opry; tribute artists singing holiday covers at Legends in Concert.
Also getting into festive mode: A Saturdays-only Sherlock Holmes murder mystery set in Victorian London is offered this season at House of Blues; Ripley’s Aquarium offers a Festival of Trees exhibit. The Pirates Voyage dinner theater (once Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede) tweaks its story line and effects for a seasonal show. Yes, the head buccaneer will be Captain Scrooge.
Want to go?
The Dickens Christmas Show & Festival will be 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Thursday, 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Nov. 13-14 and noon-6 p.m. Nov. 15 at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center, 2101 N. Oak St., Myrtle Beach.
Admission: $9.50; $4.50 for ages 2-12. Details on this and related events: www.dickenschristmasshow.com.