Downtown Galveston will take a trip back in time today for Dickens on The Strand, an annual Victorian-themed holiday festival held through the weekend.
Weather during the festival, one of Galveston’s most profitable tourist events, likely will be sunnier than last year. Heavy rain in 2016 caused the Galveston Historical Foundation, which stages the festival, to make the event free for two days of the weekend and to also hold a second weekend.
With sunny skies projected for today and Saturday and the slight possibility of scattered thunderstorms Sunday, the weekend looks to be off to a great start, Galveston Historical Foundation spokesman Will Wright said.
The event starts 5 p.m. today with a free kickoff at 22nd and Strand streets. The ticketed events will take place all day Saturday and most of Sunday, according to the foundation.
Unredeemed tickets from 2016 will be honored this year, Wright said. Although vendors were not given refunds during last year’s event, they were able to come back for free the second weekend and get 50 percent off registration for this year’s event, Wright said.
Dickens on The Strand is the historical foundation’s largest fundraiser, meaning the rainy weekend last year affected the organization, although not to an overwhelming extent, Wright said.
“The loss from Dickens did not net a full loss for the organization,” Wright said. “We were able to make up for it. It’s still a tough year when Dickens takes a hit.”
The festival features parades, entertainment on six stages and special events, and many people dress in Victorian garb for the occasion.
Dickens on The Strand is the island’s third highest earning event for hotel revenue, said Mary Beth Bassett, spokeswoman of the Galveston Park Board of Trustees. Lone Star Rally, a motorcycle rally held in early November, and Mardi Gras, held in February, are first and second, Bassett said.
In 2016, hotel revenues during the weekend of Dickens on The Strand were almost $900,000, and revenues were more than $1 million in 2015 for the weekend, Bassett said. Those numbers are from Smith Travel Research, which receives hotel revenue information from about 90 percent of hotels on the island, Bassett said. Bed and breakfasts and short-term rental properties don’t report, she said.
“Dickens on The Strand is an important holiday tradition for our visitors and residents,” Bassett said. “And it comes at a great time of the year, during the off-peak season, to serve as an economic boost to our downtown merchants.”
Online ticket sales are already up from 2015, Wright said. About 35,000 people will attend Dickens on The Strand in a strong year, Wright said.