The Jane Austen Festival in Louisville ~ A First-Time Attendee Shares Her Tale!

Hello Dear Readers:  a guest post today from Melody, a young woman on her first adventure at the Jane Austen Festival in Louisville, Kentucky last weekend – she has shared her thoughts and several pictures of the her time there, so enjoy – and perhaps plan to go next year – she highly recommends it!


The Louisville, Kentucky fifth annual Jane Austen Festival was held at Locust Grove. I wasn’t aware of the history behind this historical house. The home belonged to Maj. William and Lucy Clark Croghan. When George Rogers Clark was injured, Lucy invited her brother to stay at Locust Grove. So who is George? He was the older brother of William Clark, (who was part of the Lewis and Clark expedition), he founded Louisville, and quite a few other notable things important to the nation.

This is the North facing side of Locust Grove. It has a nice size porch.
The south side, which I would think
visitors would enter wasn’t as grand imo.

One of the notable items in the house that stands out is the fact the descendants painted over a regency era portrait. Apparently they felt the red dress was gaudy and a black dress was painted on. This was found out in the restoration and they put back to the original regal red regency dress.

The portrait that was painted over

  Another fascinating fact was the entertaining parlor was on the second floor, where today, upstairs is reserved for family and entertaining is done on the main floor or possibly even the basement for those who have one.

 The entertaining parlor on the second floor 

Now for the Jane Austenites that want to hear about the festival. There were a great many visitors dressed in period reproductions that were all amazing! There was even a Regency style fashion show. The clothes were delicious and went in order according to the years they were popular. The speaker gave information on the clothes and where to find the patterns. Who knew men carried fans? The women carried cute reticules, wore pretty hats or had dainty parasols, and of course wore gloves, either long or short. The men were dashing in their finery as well.

 This lovely lady is a member of JASNA
with loads of information.
She was also in the fashion show.


Tailored/fitted clothing for a man 

(something that was mentioned during the fashion show was women
didn’t seem to be as concerned with gaping or perfect fits as we are today)

A man’s banyan

 I loved the detail in this purple dress. (same lady as above]

Now don’t think for a moment that this is an event purely for women. NO! There was a Gentleman’s duel. I do not know what caused the men to find it necessary to shoot at each other, but the first man to fire was the man to die. It was over within a minute. The gentleman remaining had been injured in the shoulder and was quite irked with the doctor for spending so much time with the dead man saying, “stop spending so much time with the dead man and tend to my wound!” (the duel the next day lasted longer than a minute).

Gentleman’s duel

There was also a bare knuckle boxing match that women obviously would not have attended. Or at least not women of any gentility. The ring leader gave the history of the gambling of the sport and the numerous exchange of money as the odds would change throughout. When he removed a pad of paper from his pants he wrote names and odds of the betting men. The winner of the boxing match had won a substantial amount of money.

There were fencing lessons and a demonstration on riding side saddle. It was very important what horse a gentleman rode. It reminded me of the status of the type of car one drives. There were special pay classes for how to paint a fan, and two discussions. On Saturday evening there was a ball, but since my companion is just 9 we forego that event.

Side saddle demonstration 

If you made reservations ahead of time there was afternoon tea. I recommend the lavender cake for dessert. It was deliciously moist and not overly powerful in taste.

Dr. Cheryl Kinney discussed Jane Austen’s illness and Jane’s opinion of illness and her characters’ woes. Who knew that green dresses were toxic?! It wasn’t just the clothing, but wall paper and paint as well. Green was very fashionable at that time too. Dr. Kinney asked how many people were wearing green at the event; there were quite a few! (of course they didn’t need to worry about the copper arsenic).

The final event on Sunday was “Dressing Mr. Darcy.” However, it was in reverse and he ended in a state that could make a grown woman blush. There was quite a bit of fanning happening in the audience.

Dressing Mr. Darcy

Finally, what made the event so special were the people. Everyone was so nice and the vendors were helpful. One young lady took the time to show my son a Spanish pistol’s workings with the full knowledge we were not going to buy. She even showed him how to salute with a rifle British style and American style.

One of the vendors made marbled papers that were amazing. After each one people would ooh and ahh. Of course everyone is unique. I was able to speak to the vendor on the last day and he showed me an antique book someone had given him with the marbling technique on the outside, inside, and on the edges of the pages. But the coloring was more indicative to the Victorian era, (darker, not as pretty as the Regency era).

The children gathered together and had their own fun in the meadow playing sword fights and just plain running around. I asked my son what his favorite parts were and after thinking about it he replied, “playing with the kids and the vendors.”  I was surprised. What kid enjoys shopping?

If you ever get the chance to attend a Jane Austen festival, I highly recommend it.


About the Author ~ Melody writes:

Jane Austen came into my life, because I love history; the manners, fashion, and lifestyle. I also happen to be a book enthusiast and I like that Jane Austen tells things to the reader that makes the reader think. You must read between the lines, she doesn’t just come out and molly coddle the reader. Truth be told, I’d never been to a Jane Austen festival. I didn’t even know they took place. My son and I decided to give it a go, only because they offered so many fun “guy” events. I would not have gone otherwise. We are both happy for the adventure. We may make a tradition of it. Perhaps in period reproductions next time.


Thank you Melody for sharing with us your observations of the Festival – maybe I will see you there next year myself!

Further Reading: from the Locust Grove website

  • You can see a performance of the bare-knuckled boxing here.
  • Bite from the Past blog on the Festival here.
 c2012 Jane Austen in Vermont