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  • Writer's pictureDeborah Yaffe

Lemonade in Louisville

Among the many long-scheduled events that have fallen victim to our coronavirus moment, the annual Jane Austen Festival in Louisville, Kentucky, is surely among the most beloved. Since 2008, the local chapter of the Jane Austen Society of North America has hosted the festival on the grounds of the eighteenth-century Locust Grove estate.

Over time, the festival has grown into a summer weekend extravaganza of lectures, food, crafts, vendor booths, and demonstrations of everything Regency, from dancing to dueling to bare-knuckle boxing. Thousands attend, and so many come in costume that in 2014 the festival briefly set the record for the largest-ever gathering of Regency-clad revelers, before the competing Austen festival in Bath, England, snatched the title back two months later.

Saddled with this year’s coronavirus lemons, the festival organizers decided to make lemonade: They’ve transformed the now-canceled July 10-12 gathering into a mostly free online event that they are billing as a chance to introduce the festival to Janeites across the globe.

Registration opened last weekend for six days of events (theme: “In the Library with Jane”) that will include talks on everything from Regency jewelry and sports to the relationship between Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey and Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. Festival vendors will offer online shopping for Regency clothing and accessories, and registrants can sign up for ten online craft workshops costing $40 to $103.50.

On a personal note: I’ll be giving one of the featured talks, on the history and contemporary relevance of Jane Austen fanfiction, from 7 to 8 pm on Friday, July 10. I’ll also be joining the other featured speaker -- Soniah Kamal, author of the 2019 Pride and Prejudice update Unmarriageable -- for a roundtable discussion from noon to 1 pm on Saturday, July 11. The conversation will be moderated by Anne Bogel, creator of the Modern Mrs. Darcy blog.

Although the talks will be pre-recorded, Q&A will be live – I hope to see you there!

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