Today my friend Dorothy is sharing about her recent experience at the Jane Austen Festival in Louisville, KY.
Each year the festival features an Austen author, a Regency style show, a Regency Emporium, Afternoon Tea, as well as workshops and a Grand Ball.
I was unable to attend this year but I thought it would be an interesting adventure to experience next year. I asked Dorothy a few questions to give us insight about the festival.
How did you learn about the festival?
Somehow I stumbled upon the Jane Austen Society of North America’s Louisville Group. I didn’t initially go to the festival because I didn’t know much about it. Later I ran into an acquaintance who went every year and she encouraged me to attend the festival.
What drew you to it?
I love Jane Austen. I’ve only read each of her books once, but have watched film adaptations over and over. At first I was a little nervous about attending the festival and getting dressed up in a period costume when it wasn’t even Halloween! But when I arrived I found I was in good company and made many new friends from all over the US.
Can you describe the atmosphere?
It’s incredible! Everyone has been gearing up for this all year long and once it’s finally arrived they are so excited. Not everyone is dressed in period costume so you don’t feel out of place if you are not participating in that way. Everyone is admiring the dresses and mens outfits and they are so excited to take in all that is offered. Many events are happening throughout the day as well as spontaneous events so you have plenty to see and do.
What are your favorite parts about the festival?
I love feeling like I’ve stepped back in time. There are so many favorites.. watching a fashion show, sitting in a dark cellar listening to shadow puppets stories or sitting down to tea time. Everything is just enchanting. The Grand Ball is probably my favorite of all!
What’s it like to dress up?
Last year I rented a costume and was pretty disappointed with the offerings in the Cincinnati area. It’s hard to find Regency dresses around here… for some reason they aren’t in high demand. LOL So I planned early on to make my dress for this past festival. It was a lot of work to make the costume but in the end I was so happy with it! It’s such a different style from todays clothes, though we see hints of it here and there in our clothes today. I did feel like I was taking a huge step backwards when I got myself into that corset, it made me grateful for the advances we have made in fashion!
Is it super hot in costume?
It’s surprisingly not! In 2013 it was sweltering outside during the festival but being in the dress was actually cooler than if I were wearing shorts. This past festival the weather was beautiful so the heat was not an issue.
Are there people who don’t dress up?
There are many people who do not dress up. If you attended without a costume you would not feel out of place at all.
Why should someone attend?
This event is very unique and family friendly. From seeing the militia encampment, touring the manor at Locust Grove and watching lace making demonstrations to a Punch and Judy show there is so much to enjoy. Each year they offer something different and repeat favorites.
If you love Jane Austen it’s a no brainer! If you don’t well you will still find something to enjoy at the festival. Archery? They have it! A duel? Yep… they have that too.
What does someone need to know before they go?
It’s best to register before, though it’s not necessary. This way if you see something offered that has an additional cost or limited space you can reserve your spot. Also pre registering saves you money.
If you want to attend the Grand Ball then you need to watch when registration opens and do it right away, it fills up quickly.
Food is available for a decent price so you don’t have to leave the grounds.
And lastly, plan to arrive around 9:30 and stay the whole day if you plan to attend only one day of the festival.
It’s possible to do everything offered in one day if you arrive early but I prefer to spread it all out over the two days.
In the end my advice is just to go!
Don’t worry about having a costume or if you don’t know anyone, you will make new friends and have a wonderful time!
You can find out more information from the Jane Austen Society of Louisville website.