The 12th annual Jane Austen Literary Festival this weekend will feature a couple of new twists, including a picnic and an "author enlightenment" looking at the poetry of William Wordsworth.
The fest will be held from noon to 5 p.m. April 6 in old Mandeville, with events in and around the historic Lang House, 605 Carroll St.
The Jane Austen Foundation hosts the festival to, as its website says, “uphold the standards which would make Jane proud.” It celebrates the life and lasting influence of Austen (1775-1817), whose six novels and other work captured the sense and sensibility of the era and set the stage for more realism in fiction.
“We’re hosting a strawberry picnic this year,” festival co-founder Kerri Blache said. “We encourage people to bring their own baskets.”
Guests can also purchase food at the Lang House, Blache said, adding that there will be a strawberry bar as well.
The picnic, officially known as Mr. Knightley’s Strawberry Picking Picnic after one of Austen’s beloved characters in the novel “Emma,” will also feature a Celtic harp ensemble.
Another addition to the festival, she said, is Author Enlightenment, featuring William Wordsworth, the 19th-century English romantic poet.
As for the popular Perfect Love Letter Competition, Blache said, “The letters don’t have to be romantic” — you can write about your love for most anything, as long as you keep Jane Austen’s propriety in mind.
The competition was held in the fall and winning letters will be read at the Lang House on April 6.
Other popular events of the day include the Mr. Darcy Oratory and the No Plain Janes fashion show. Guests are encouraged to dress from the Jane Austen period, Blache said, though it is not required.
“I am always surprised at how many people come out in period attire,” Blache added. “It reminds me of the Renaissance festival.”
Blache founded the Jane Austen Festival in 2008 along with Richard Boyd and Danna Archer. The festival includes a poetry reading named in honor of Boyd, a longtime journalist who died in 2017.
“It’s a family-oriented day,” Blache said, and all are welcome to come and celebrate all things Jane Austen.
Admission to the festival is $20, or $10 after 2:30 p.m. Students are half-price, and children 5 and younger are admitted free. For more information or to volunteer with the Jane Austen Literary Foundation, visit the website at janeaustenfestival.org.