In which I visit the Jane Austen Festival

In which I visit the Jane Austen Festival

On Saturday, I did something I never thought I’d do: I attended the Jane Austen Festival.

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Why never? Obviously, I love Jane–this blog’s name is derived from Pride and Prejudice, after all. But I’m not into regency dress or fanfiction or Austen-derived drama, and that’s what the festival is about. Or so I thought.

But since I do love Austen, and the festival is in my town, it felt silly to pass it by (again–the event is in its 6th year). So on Saturday morning, my daughters and I drove over to Locust Grove to check it out.

Locust-Grove

I was shocked at the number of people in Regency dress, especially the number of young people.

regency-dress

We wandered the crowds, we strolled through the gardens, we visited the Shoppes of Meryton.

Bingleys Tea

An advertisement for Bingley’s Teas, an exhibitor at the festival, which sold Austen-inspired blends. My favorite was Elizabeth Bennet’s: “a strong black tea with sassy, smart cranberry rounded with sweet flavoring and flowers of opinion.”  

We watched a Pride and Prejudice inspired-drama:

Darcy-and-Bingley

Darcy and Bingley waiting to make their entrance

bonnets

it’s not everyday you see an audience like this one

We watched a bare-knuckled boxing demo:

boxing

But mostly, we just took it all in. The people-watching was excellent.

women-shopping

This still could have come out of an Austen film adaptation. Well, minus the tote bag.  

We didn’t get the full experience. We missed the Regency style show, the gentlemen’s duel, and the Regency promenade, in which the crowd was attempting to set a new world record for the most people in Regency dress in one place and time. (358 people turned out in Regency dress, which sadly fell short of the record of 409.)

I was most sad to miss the Regency Ball, because I would have loved an opportunity to gawk. Sadly, I found out about it this week and tickets sold out months ago. Maybe next year?

And maybe–just maybe–I’ll find myself an Empire-waisted dress by then. With a bonnet to match.

Maybe.

Have you ever fangirled it up at an event like this? Tell us about it in comments.

41 comments | Comment

41 comments

  1. That looks so fun! I would definitely get some girls together and dress up for that. On our last girls’ weekend, we went to The Sense & Sensibility Musical in Denver — so hilarious. There was no one there in Regency dress though.

  2. Cheri says:

    I never knew such a festival existed within a days drive for me! My daughters would be completely enthralled. I am putting this on the calendar for next year! How fun!

  3. Shan says:

    Oh My Goodness! I would have been in heaven. Isn’t it so funny that my daughter and I love the regency dress and all things Jane and would be there in a heartbeat–where you really weren’t thrilled about it but yet it is in your town?! 🙂

    You must go next year and let us live through you. ha!

    blessings,
    Shan
    http://www.The-How-to-Guru.com

  4. Angie says:

    I’ve actually been to a Jane Austen festival like this in Bath, England. I took a trip to London with a girlfriend, and we spent a day in Bath, and were completely unaware that the festival was going on. I was shocked at the number of dressed up men that were there! The funniest thing was seeing all of the costumed people talking on their cell phone! We did miss some of the regular sites in Bath, however, since they were closed due to the festival (the Assembly rooms, I think). How fun this is in your hometown!

  5. Heather says:

    Oh, wow. I also don’t think I’m the fanfic and dress-up type, but this looks awesome. And only a day’s drive away from me! Unfortunately I’m in the small baby stage of life and loathe car trips because of it, but maybe in a few years!

  6. Linda says:

    I would have loved to have gone. “Another cup of tea, ma’am?” “Why, yes,” I answer, “I would love another cup.” To actually wear clothing that’s feminine and beautiful, oh my! I’ll have to keep this in mind. 🙂

  7. Elizabeth says:

    It looks like you had a good time! You should go next year and go all out for the day. And isn’t someone in your family doing sewing camp? *outfit project idea 🙂

    When I was little, there was an annual “Dicken’s Fair” (right around the holidays) that went on in Raleigh. It was so much fun – full of food, performances, gifts, and books. They even had an English professor who would come in from NC State and speak about the time period/authors/influences from the time. And of course, so many people dressed up! I wasn’t one of them, but I loved watching what everyone would show up to wear each year.

  8. Lisa Maria says:

    What fun!! How I envy you. I would definitely have dressed up…Love it! Thanks so much for sharing. I’m sure we all appreciate the opportunity to experience this through you.

  9. Victoria says:

    I am a massive Jane Austen fan, but have also thought these festivals were mostly about adults playing ‘dress up’ and tacking on fan-fiction additions to Austen perfection. (Though I blithely attempt to forget that in my more zealous fan days I actually made a regency era imitation gown and wore it to as many events as possible – mostly masquerade high school dances and costume contests, you know just like the other kids.) But, from your pictures, The Festival seems like a wonderful time! Especially if you have friends to come along with. I’ll have to check it out myself sometime. Thanks for sharing!

  10. Gina says:

    After reading your post, I am so bummed I didn’t go. I read about the event a week or so ago but didn’t think it would be my thing. I live in Louisville too, love Austen but not so much the popular fan fiction, etc… Seeing your pictures has completely changed my mind. I am going next year…can’t wait.

    • Anne says:

      Hello, Louisville!

      I’m sorry you didn’t make it…but the good news is they’ve been going strong for 6 years and are already planning a 7th. See you there next summer?

  11. Anne says:

    Oh, thanks for sharing your adventure! You should totally try out a dress and bonnet next year. 🙂 I wonder what the Regency Ball is like. Maybe they give lessons in those dance styles? What did your daughters think? Fun post!

    • Anne says:

      My daughters thought it was pretty great. And I’m wondering about the Regency Ball, too–the dresses, the dancing, the food–all of it! Maybe next year I’ll find out. 🙂

  12. Anna says:

    That looks so fun! I’ve never been to a Regency festival, but I did go to some Civil War reenactments when I was in middle school. I assume they are similar, but with the added adventure of guns and cannons! The best part of the reenacting was the ball which I attended in costume. A 13 year old history geek’s dream come true.

  13. Jamie says:

    Ironic that you posted this today – my husband and I spent all day yesterday at a Renaissance Festival! I’m not sure I could pull off a Regency gown, but I can rock an Elizabethan corset like nobody’s business. 😉

    Comi-Con is this week as well, and there are some amazing costumes going on there too – though that’s out of our price range for the moment. Hope you get make the ball next year. It sounds divine.

    • Anne says:

      I have seen some amazing photos from Comi-Con. And I’m pretty sure if you can rock a corset, you can kill it with an Empire-waisted dress.

  14. I was a member of JASNA for a number of years, but never made any of the events. Now I really want to find one! I figure if my hubby gets excited to wear a kilt to his Scottish Festivals, maybe I can convince him to go regency with me 🙂

  15. Stephanie says:

    What a FUN event! The festival organizers ought to invite a group of book bloggers to promote the event and to come dressed in full costume. I bet that would create the necessary “tipping point” for a new Guiness World Record! 😉

  16. Kate says:

    Ever since reading this last year I’ve had my heart set on going this year. We’re driving about 6 hours but we’ll be there! Do the shops have regency outfits for sale?

  17. Bonny says:

    I tried to respond to your inquiry about premade gowns. Yes! There are two vendors with premade gowns. Others will have jewelry, bonnets, shawls, parasols & more!

  18. Deborah says:

    I would love to go sit and watch everything! So fun! Not sure I’m into dressing for it……….but my daughter would totally love dressing up! She loves playacting.

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