Tacoma’s Stadium District has hosted a Dickens Festival every Christmas season since 2004, and the basic recipe hasn’t changed much in that time.
There are the horse-and-carriage rides, the black top hats, the big-bustled dresses and the parade of children dressed as 19th century street urchins.
But this year’s festival, which took place Saturday, had special poignancy. For one thing, this year commemorates the 200th birthday of Charles Dickens, the author of “A Christmas Carol” and masterful chronicler of common people struggling to survive in London’s class system.
For another, this year’s festival came in the midst of a major City of Tacoma street renewal project, which has isolated Stadium District businesses and, with the generally poor economy, has driven several of them to the edge of survival.
“The businesses are really feeling it,” Frances Lorenz, the Dickens Festival organizer, said Saturday afternoon as she welcomed people to the festival in her wide-brimmed hat and Victorian-era dress with puffed sleeves.
“Twenty thousand cars used to come through here a day,” Lorenz said. “Now Stadium Way is going to be closed until August.”
The Stadium Way arterial project, which began in June, includes removal of the existing pavement, upgrades to street lighting, new sewers and other utilities, new pavement, retaining walls, sidewalks, bike lanes and landscaping.
Lorenz, who is also the senior minister at the Center for Spiritual Living in the Stadium District, said the annual festival is primarily intended to draw attention to the business district.
“We want people to know about the district this year when it’s cut off,” she said.
But beyond that, she said, the festival celebrates Dickens’ concern for the poor. A toy parade and proceeds of an auction Saturday night will go to local charities, she said.Rob Carson: 253-597-8693 firstname.lastname@example.org