Tea and top hats: Reviving Regency England at the Jane Austen Festival [Books]

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Tea and Top hats: Reviving Regency England at the Jane Austen Festival

It’s a fair day; a soothing combination of breeze, sun and cloud that welcomes a stroll outside. The normally wearisome heat has parted company, inviting a parade of colorful gowns to saunter on the arms of dapper gentlemen. Parasols bloom in the sunshine and afternoon tea is casually served on picnic blankets in the shade of mature trees. Good weather has brought the main thoroughfare of Meryton, England alive with pleasant, convivial chatter as a shopkeeper offers a mirror to a young lady purchasing a cameo locket. She debates blithely with her gentlemen escort between a red and a black ribbon before casually asking the merchant: “Do you take Visa?”  Wait…what?

This past weekend found Louisville’s Locust Grove buzzing with an array of readers, history buffs, craftsmen and merrymakers of all sorts as the fifth annual Jane Austen Festival transformed the historic grounds of William and Lucy Clark Croghan’s 18th Century Georgian home into a vibrant recreation of Regency England. Sponsored by the Greater Louisville chapter of the Jane Austen Society of North America, the festivities featured a wide collection of entertainment, discussions, shop vendors, demonstrations and, of course, plenty of creamy tea to celebrate both the classic novels of Austen’s pen and the life of the author herself. 

$10 of general admission bought a full day of events for festival-goers, including tours of the restored Locust Grove mansion and grounds, a Regency-style fashion show featuring the creations of Betsy Bashore, side saddle demonstrations with traveling horsefellows Bill and Deborah Glidden, a live action display of proper fencing techniques, a duel to the death between gentlemen, as well as the discussions “Dressing Mr. Darcy” with Brian Cushing and “Austen-it is: Sickness and Health in the novels of Jane Austen” with Dr. Cheryl Kinney presented in the Big Tent. Deeper pockets (or handbags) afforded attractions such as the performance Shame the Devil acted by Fanny Kemble, tea workshops provided by the Bingley Tea Company, fan painting with artist Jenni Miller and a four-course afternoon tea complete with fine china and polite conversation.    

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