Sunday, July 28, 2013

Sixth Annual Jane Austen Festival: A most agreeable time in Louisville

Last weekend, my daughter, Rachel, and I had a most agreeable time at the Sixth Annual Jane Austen Festival in Louisville, Kentucky. This marked our fourth visit to historic Locust Grove where the Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA), Greater Louisville, hosts the festival under the care and direction of its Regional Coordinator, Bonnie Wise.

The grounds of Locust Grove were filled with Regency-attired guests 
Bonny Wise donning a lovely bonnet

Each year attendance grows and the town of Meryton expands to include more stores and merchandise, much to our delight. Period dress is the norm, although, not required. Many guests were spurred on this year by the festival's goal of breaking a Guinness Book World Record for the number of people dressed in Regency attire. Although, according to the, the festival came a bit shy of the record set in 2009 in Bath, England, this year's attendees' efforts were exceedingly impressive. So many full-length gowns and waistcoats dotted the country landscape, one could easily be convinced they were transported to early 19th-century England.

Rachel learns a new game. Entertaining and no batteries required.
We took in pastimes and crafts of the day, with surprisingly entertaining games and finely skilled artists. Rachel favored a numbers game played with a cleverly-constructed wooden box. It required no batteries to charge and no frustrating level acquisitions of our on-line addiction of Candy Crush. (However, I dare say, I do believe Miss Austen would have forgiven our Words with Friends indulgence and not dismissed it so equally as the trifling condition it may be considered.).

Lace-making demonstration
Navigation equipment
Bare-knuckle boxing

We were entertained by shadow puppets, bare-knuckle boxing, lace-making and a lesson on how the Navy men navigated the seas before GPS technology. We admired the latest red-carpet Regency styles which would have begged any E! correspondent to inquire, "Who are you wearing?". Betsy Bashore may be the impressive answer.

Red carpet Regency fashion show
Traveling mostly by foot, we admired a lovely sedan chair that made its way through the grounds and provided a reprieve for weary walkers. (I do wish I could engage such transport when nearing the Cincinnati border, traveling south from Michigan.  It would relieve my poor nerves as we approach the bottle-neck traffic that always greets us on the bridge to Kentucky.)

Lovely sedan chair would calm my nerves during rush hour traffic
In need of more shopping, we headed to the Visitors' Center to the vendors inside where a new one caught our fancy - Pure Hokum. This retailer offers a wide selection of fine, hand painted gifts including brilliant white china with Austen quotes. Rachel purchased a cup with the famous Darcy quote: "Surely you must know it was all for you". That charm can melt marshmallows before we even heat the hot chocolate.

Rachel purchases a pure hokum mug
Of course, as tea enthusiasts, like Jane herself, we never miss the afternoon tea. It's always a treat, but with the addition of Bingley's Teas, it was even more delightful. (For more about Bingley's Teas and their new Prince Regent Collection, see The Detroit Tea Examiner's article:  "Prince Regent Collection from Bingley's Teas"). The menu included tea sandwiches, scones and a selection of scrumptious desserts. Rachel chose the decadent chocolate bread pudding and I selected the lemon cake, the latter of which brought to mind our favorite Austen prince charming, Mr. Darcy. It was a fair balance of tasty tart and sour with hearty richness, ending on a sheer delight of sweetness with an irresistible luscious topping. (Oh, my, I appeal to anyone within striking distance for a fan. I do believe the temperature of the room has elevated greatly.)

With Julia Matson, owner of Bingley's Teas and their new display tent
Rachel and I enjoying our afternoon tea
Speaking of the master of Pemberley, the great highlight this year, as always for us,  was the "Dressing of Mr. Darcy", expertly executed by Brian Cushing. With a most appealing countenance and a fine figure, Mr. Darcy shed articles of his attire while describing their importance and history. Starting with his hat, then a nod to his hair, he removed his jacket, cravat and suspenders, giving full warning that his pants, boots and all else would remain on his person. Despite any collective unspoken entreaties from the audience for more, we remained a respectful and admiring group.

  From the genteel male fashions, we journeyed across town to the gentlemen's civilized sport of dueling. We gathered in the Village Green to witness a battle between adversaries. I dare say, our own Mr. Darcy showed up as one of the combatants and, to our distress and horror, without a happy ending. An unexpected shot fired through air, and, alas, our handsome hero was left, face down on the grassy lawn. I shall hastily add, however, that as the victim's body was carried away, in front of astonished fans, we detected a charming, unsuppressed smile on the lips of Locust Grove's very own Mr. Darcy.

Dueling victim is carried off, but grieved fans are comforted by a smile
As we left the festival and all the endearments of the Regency period and Jane Austen, we once again relished our visit to the unplugged era of our favorite author. To a simpler, slower time where a turn about the room or picnic on the grounds could be enjoyed without a multitude of distractions. A heartfelt thank you to all who contributed to this wonderful affair:  surely you showed it was all done for us.

Rachel and a well-restored Mr. Darcy

1 comment:

Penelope Carlevato said...

Looks like you two had lot's of fun, plus what a great venue.