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What the Dickens?

Steampunk on The Strand: Victorian punks and beardos join Galveston's annual holiday festival

What do airship captains, bagpipers, chimney sweeps, and alpacas have in common? Not much, actually.

But for one weekend each December they rule the streets of downtown Galveston during the Dickens on the Strand festival, which raises money for the Galveston Historical Foundation.

This year's 38th annual celebration, held Dec. 3 and 4, featured a special visit from the Dickensian line itself. Great-great granddaughter Lucinda Dickens Hawksley hosted a series of dinner and breakfast fundraisers.

Right: a team of chimney sweeps roams The Strand looking for clients

Airship Isabella, co-founded by Cedric and Amelia Whittaker (A.K.A. Michael and Lisa Ford), hosted Steampunk Square, which featured a variety of vendors selling handmade Victorian-inspired wares.

Amelia Whittaker says the merchandise area more than doubled from last year's inaugural steampunk zone.

"We moved from improv performances at last year's festival to more original shows, including an steampunk adaptation of A Christmas Carol," she says. 

Right: vendor Audra Lilenthal and Amelia Whittaker

"Our group is one of the premier facial hair teams representing Texas," says Miletus Callahan-Barile of the Austin Facial Hair Club, which was founded in 2008.

The club hosted a facial hair contest, called Albert's Whimsical Whisker Revue, on Saturday afternoon at the special request of Dickens on The Strand organizers.

Right: Callahan-Barile sports his signature beard style, "The Donegal" (A.K.A. "The Alaskan Whaler")

Mildred Dickel Johnson, of Houston's Airship Heart of Iron, currently holds the post of "Minister of Weather."

"Part of my duties is to help get the ship safely to its destination," explains Johnson. "Sometimes I mess up and we end up in the wrong time period."

Right: Mildred Dickel Johnson (A.K.A. Elise von Wisenschaft) with Tyrel

"There are no limits to the steampunk look," muses Andrea Izaguirre, who became interested in the quasi-Victorian punk style while in college.

Right: San Antonio residents Izaguirre and husband David Orenday, who joined his wife for his first Dickens on The Strand this weekend

The Airship Isabella hosted a street bazaar, sideshow, and a Saturday night street ball, complete with a DJ spinning late 19th-century waltzes with techno beats.

The festival offered a variety of activities for families and children, including Picadilly Circus, a playground with elephant and camel rides and a petting zoo; Artful Dodger Lane, where children could help render a version of London in chalk; and snow on The Strand.

Right: John Wissinger and Linda Webb

Revelers enjoyed entertainment on five stages, carolers, jugglers, musicians and magicians.

On stage in Steampunk Square, a magician entertains a crowd of festival goers in front of a backdrop showing London's Tower Bridge (and a surprisingly modern skyline).

"Visiting from the future," live performer Dr. Zosc shared the futures of Victorian patrons, eliciting a mixture of reactions ranging from laughter to silent shock.

A  London bobby keeps the peace.

At multiple street corners, small troupes of bagpipers entertained passersby.

The proprietor of the Foxy Tails booth poses with her dog. A nearby vendor selling hand-woven sweaters featured a live alpaca.

Other events at the festival included the Queen's Parade, Pickwick's Lanternlight Parade and Victorian Bed Races.