“It’s the experience! People come for the experience!”
The experience that founder Myra Starnes, owner of Leisure Time Unlimited, is talking about is the Dickens Christmas Show & Festivals, in its 39th year.
That experience is taking a giant step back in time to the Victorian era when British bobbies walked the streets with Billy clubs. When the Punch & Judy shows started. When people paid to have their tea-leaves read. When a table setting was a work of art. When elegance was for every day.
Based on Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” the festival re-creates a Victorian Marketplace where guests can check all the boxes on their holiday shopping lists. A multitude of vendors, many of them in the garb of the day and coming from all over the country, converge to bring everything from handmade jewelry to repurposed vintage clothing to holiday snacks and even furniture.
It’s also an opportunity for area charities, who make up an entire third of the floor of the Myrtle Beach Convention Center’s 100,000 square feet, to know and be known.
This year’s event is Nov. 12-15 at the convention center at 2101 N. Oak St. in Myrtle Beach. Thursday, Nov. 12, hours are 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. Friday, Nov. 13, hours are 9 a.m. – 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 14, hours are 9 a.m. – 6 p.m., and Sunday, Nov. 15 they’re from noon – 6 p.m. Guests will be required to wear face-coverings and observe social distancing.
All the pieces and props that create the festivals are available through a silent auction, and 100% of those proceeds go to the non-profits.
The festivals and the non-profits that receive their proceeds are:
n Festival of Trees - Coastal Carolina University’s Life Program, which teaches life skills to adults with moderate disabilities.
n The Festival of Tables - Waccamaw Animal Rescue Mission [WARM]
n Festival of Wreaths - The Kiwanis Club
n Festival of Stockings – Help 4 Kids/Backpack Buddies
n Festival of Worlds – Meals on Wheels of Horry County; Vietnamese Buddhist Association; MBHS PTO; Red Cross
n Santa’s Castle – Barnabas Horse Foundation
Charity representatives are encouraged to post a two-sided three-page wish list and to not be surprised when those wishes are granted.
Starnes tells about a company that provided a year’s worth of moving and storage services to a local women’s shelter because of the wish list. And of a brand-new $28,000 tractor the Barnabas Horse Foundation could cross off their wish list.
“I truly believe that whatever an organization needs, someone has that in a closet somewhere,” Starnes said, adding, “The charities make connections with the community, and visitors find charities where they’d like to volunteer, and it’s a win-win for everyone.”
Tickets are available online at www.dickenschristmasshow.com or at the door. Adults are $10 for a single day ($11 at the door); $14 for a multi-day ($15 at the door); $4 for a single-day child ($4.50 at the door); and $5 for a multi-day child ($6 at the door).
The Dickens Christmas Show & Festivals also features the Shopping with A Hero exhibit which involves police and firemen taking children holiday shopping.
At the exhibit, costume-garbed police and firemen – those services started in the Victorian era – have their pictures taken with kids and vie for Facebook likes.
There will also be a COVID-19-conscious scavenger hunt, which will involve minimal touching for participants.
Because of the coronavirus, traditional high teas and luncheons will not be part of the event this year, but are scheduled to return next year.
Another change because of COVID-19 will involve the 15-foot snow globe. In years past, guests could have their pictures taken inside the globe.
This year, the globe will display some of the Victorian equipment, such as a record player, that preceded the radio industry.
Those snow globes, Starnes explained, “started in the Victorian days when lights would shine through them. Then they became souvenirs and then they became holiday souvenirs and then they became part of England.”
Ghosts of Christmas past, present and future will walk the floor and interact with guests.
Dickens-related shadowbox displays will be exhibited.
Magicians will do their thing throughout the event.
There’ll even be a chance to have a “you were naughty” letter sent from Santa.
There are, Starnes said, “tons of arts and crafts shows here that have tents and a band.
“But we want you to walk in the door of this show, and even if you don’t buy a thing, get your money’s worth.
“People don’t just kick off the holiday season and find gifts for everyone on their lists, they also have fun because they never know what’s around the next corner.
“This show and festival,” she said, “is an experience. It’s the sizzle.”