Every July since 2008 the grounds of Locust Grove come alive. There’s vendors hawking their wares, a bevy of men and women in costume, and an air of history come alive: the Jane Austen Festival. Operated by the Louisville chapter of the Jane Austen Society of North America (JASNA), the festival runs this coming weekend - from Friday night the 18th to Sunday the 20th. This year boasts everything from an archery demonstration to talks given by noted authors Jo Baker and John Mullan, among a myriad of other events.
Friday night is also a first for the festival this year - previous festivals started on Saturday mornings. The plan for Friday night (open from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.) is to have a smaller preview evening for the festival, with vendors being open for sale, a performance of some of Jane Austen’s favorite songs, and Kentucky-themed food available for purchase. If you want to beat the heat of the day and enjoy a smaller crowd while checking out the shops, admission for the night is only $5.
The main weekend event boasts an impressive array of things to do, befitting the largest Jane Austen Festival in North America. There are a number of workshops being held - from men’s dressing and clothing style to paper marbling, and you’re required to pre-register and pay separately for them. If you don’t see a workshop that meets your tastes, there are a number of events covered in your admission as well - author talks, a fashion show, and even a duel between gentlemen.
There is also a number of things happening throughout the day in a more roving fashion - musicians, a Punch and Judy show, shuttlecock and games for children, tours of the Locust Grove house - the list goes on. One of the most impressive demonstrations from last year is back as well - Norah Glickstein will be on the first floor of the house making bobbin lace. It’s an amazing thing to watch, especially when you consider that all lace of the period was made as she’s making it - completely by hand.
Another highlight of the event is the tea room - you’ll need to reserve a seat for this as well, but it’s another thing you shouldn’t miss if you go. There’s a selection of tea and high-quality snacks in a wonderful setting - and it’s inside out of the heat.
There’s also other food available, a silent auction, an encampment of naval re-enactors, and the most important event of the festival - the regency promenade. Last year, the festival was able to get very close to breaking a world record for the number of people gathered together in regency attire, and this year they’re going for attempt number two. If you’re planning on attending and doing so in costume, it’s only $1 to get into the walk, and you could be helping to break a world record.
Full disclosure: I’m on the organizing committee for the Jane Austen Festival - we’d love you to come out and participate. It’s an amazingly fun event, and there’s stuff to do for anyone who loves Jane Austen. We’ve been working hard all year to get this event together, and I personally assure you a good time. If you disagree, come find the guy in the blue coat.
The festival runs Friday night, July 18th (6 p.m. to 9 p.m.), Saturday July 19th and Sunday July 20th from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. You can purchase tickets at the Festival Website, as well as reserving spots for workshops and tea. Admission is $5 for Friday night only, one day for $12 and two days for $20. The event is held on the grounds of Locust Grove - hope to see you there!
Photo courtesy of JASNA Louisville.
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