Britannia Rules the Strand

If Charles Dickens time-traveled to Galveston this weekend, he'd probably be happy to see that the fashions of Victorian-era London have withstood the test of time. Of course, he might be a bit surprised by all the Miller Lite bottles clutched by top-hatted Yanks strolling the Strand. If he should question this combination of old-style garb and cheap beer, the locals would likely whip out that standard conversation-stopping quote from wily bard Ray Wylie Hubbard: "Screw you, we're from Texas."

Each December for the past 30 years, Galveston has staged Dickens on the Strand, the street festival celebrating all things Victorian and Christmas -- themes that otherwise might not jibe with a tropical island known for its bacchanalian Mardi Gras. If you haven't been before, just think of it as a costume party. Then you'll be all set to plunk down your hard-earned farthings for a turkey leg and some damnable Yankee beer.

One of the event's highlights is the Queen's Parade (both days at 2 p.m.). But don't try to squeeze in with the crowd along the Strand -- hike over to Mechanic Street where it's easier to find a viewing spot. The costumes in this parade, which features everything from Beefeater guards to Civil War-era horsemen, are worth a look. Even better is Saturday evening's parade (7 p.m.), which is lighted by gas street lanterns.

One final tip: If you dress in Victorian costume, you'll get in free. Cobble together an outfit on the cheap at a thrift store. Women, your easiest ensemble is a long cotton skirt, a long-sleeved white blouse, gloves, a shawl and a bonnet. Men, a pair of dark dress pants with an old tweed jacket and bow tie should do the trick -- or buy a touring cap and a pair of knee-length socks and tuck your pant legs inside for that Oliver Twist look.

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Greg Barr
Contact: Greg Barr