“Welcome to Pickwick’s Pub,” said a man in a black coat and a woman in a red Victorian-styled dress as they greeted guests entering the makeshift pub at the First Christian Church.
The church’s dining hall was filled with people in all sorts of attire from steampunk to Victorian ballgowns as they prepared to kick off the 25th anniversary of the Riverside Dickens Festival, an event held every year in downtown Riverside.
In the past, the event began on a Friday night with a kickoff dinner and celebration followed by the Dickens festival, an event that honors the famous Victorian author Charles Dickens.
This year, however, instead of the previous lively and spirited pub atmosphere, they celebrated with a fun and interactive murder mystery dinner.
The night consisted of false accusations, silent raffles and sing-a-longs.
The grand finale of the night was the revelation of the murderer, festival co-founder Carolyn Grant, who had not intended on killing anyone but instead was after a book signed by Charles Dickens.
The festival has grown every year for the past 25 years. What started off as one street in front of the Riverside library has grown to more than two blocks in downtown Riverside.
The rest of the festival consisted of contests, music, shows, vendors and actors portraying famous authors and poets who walked around the festival, interacting with guests and
told them about their character’s lives.
Among the portrayed authors was Dickens, played by Paul Jacques, former professor of theater at California Baptist University, who said CBU students could benefit from reading various novels by
“Pay attention to the life lessons in his stories. Dickens was a social activist who wanted to affect change in his world during his time,” Jacques said. “It’s a good lesson for CBU students who want to live their purpose.”
The theme of the festival each year is one of Dickens’ novels. This year was Dickens’ 13th novel “Great Expectations” about a young orphan, Pip, who aspired to be a gentleman.
“Every year I try to learn about the book being featured as much as possible and then surround my life with that book,” Jacques said. “This year, with my daughter portraying Estella, we had her interact with many young ‘Pips’ and played on that dynamic.”
The festival is always looking for more volunteers. If
interested in helping plan this
annual event, contact the Dickens Festival through its website at dickensfest.com, or through their