GALVESTON, Texas – Businesses in Galveston’s Historic Strand District welcomed the start of the holiday season Monday, as the area prepares for a holiday tradition, albeit different this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Dickens on the Strand, an annual Christmas celebration, will go on the weekend of Dec. 5 but with changes. For starters, this year’s event is being called Dickens on the Squares. The event is being scaled back from one large venue along the Strand, to several smaller “squares” in the downtown area.
“Each square will feature entertainment, Dicken’s pubs, and food options with a specially designed holiday market on Pier 21. The market features numerous craft, food, and holiday vendors that guests seek out each year,” according to Galveston Historical Foundation, which has hosted the holiday tradition for over 46 years.
Business owners said they welcome the changes as a way to carry on tradition while maintaining safety protocol during the pandemic.
“It’s getting a little festive now we have Dickens on the Strand, which is coming up the first weekend of December, which draws a large crowd,” said Eloy Montemayor, general manager of La King’s Confectionery.
Montemayor said sales have improved roughly 40% since summer when area bars and restaurants along the tourist destination were shuttered.
“We moved our tables so customers can keep their distance,” Montemayor continued.
Other business owners echoed Montemayor. While sales for some aren’t where they stood this time last year, other owners said numbers have rebounded.
Wendy Morgan, co-owner of the Admiralty on the Strand and Tina’s on the Strand, said sales look good as both businesses gear up for holiday sales.
“Things are actually great,” Morgan said.
“We’re actually doing as well right now as we did last year, which is extremely surprising,” she continued.
In fact, Morgan said she traditionally nets her biggest sales during Dickens on the Strand. She believes the scaled-down venue locations will keep visitors safe while allowing her to keep her doors open.
“They’re going to have plenty of entertainment in those spaces,” Morgan said.
The future for another tradition on the Strand remains less clear.
The city has not finalized plans for its annual Mardi Gras celebration, although officials said Monday if it takes place, it won’t be as large as it typically is – with large crowds gathering along the Strand for parades and other celebrations.
“We haven’t heard anything. So, we’re not sure exactly what direction they want to take that Mardi Gras in,” Montemayor said.
While a final decision on Mardi Gras could come within the upcoming weeks, area business leaders said they’ll roll with the punches. They’ve done so already for nearly a year.
“We hope that things are contained enough that the celebration can continue,” Morgan said.