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It is time again for one of those rare posts from me. I hope, since last I wrote, life has been more good than bad to all of you on my friends list.

I’ve just returned from a magical weekend. I went to The Shire without leaving the shores of the USA. Three wonderful fans of Tolkien’s writings, who are know to many as Bilbo Baggins, Frodo Baggins and Gandalf the Grey, had grown weary of the usual conventions held in generic convention centers and monotonous hotels, grown weary of waiting for someone to hold the sort of event they, and others they knew, longed for - so they did it themselves. The result, two years later, was “A Long Expected Party” with the number of attendees limited to 144 people. When all was said and done, the central group involved in the planning and presentation of “ALEP” numbered 9. They knew it for a sign that they were on the right path.

I picked Lynnette up at the Blue Grass Airport in Lexington. We had a lovely lunch at a local coffee shop then headed for Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill. The Village is a restored Shaker community set in the rolling Kentucky hills southwest of Lexington. The simplicity of the architecture and the peacefulness of the countryside made it a perfect Shire.

Many people were already in their Tolkien costumes for Thursday’s supper and by Friday afternoon there were very few people wearing modern dress. Somehow, it felt right, looked right, for all of these people in long dresses, robes, breeches and braces to be walking the dirt street that runs the length of The Village and out a-ways to the “Grange” as we called the barn/meeting hall where events to be attended by all were held.

One of the many things that made the event perfect was the entertainment. No large speakers blasting us out of our seats, no electric instruments. All the music was acoustic and the other entertainments were readings, skits and story telling. It was just like entertainment would have been in Middle-earth. The Brobdingnagian Bards were the main entertainers for the weekend with appearances by singer Kate Brown and harpist Krista Padgett giving a more Elvish sound to parts of the evenings.

Talks/workshops were given by Professor of Old and Middle English - Michael Drout (who also gave a wonderful reading of the opening Beowulf in the original Anglo Saxon on Thursday night), artist Jef Murray, writer/editor Constance Wagner, armor and sword-smith Michael Cook, and costumer Judy Mitchell. I went to Dr. Drout’s “Tolkien and His History for England” talk which made the study of Old English tempting. He loves his subject and was an entertaining and enthusiastic speaker. I bought his book “Beowulf and the Critics by J.R.R.Tolkien” and a CD of him reading several poems in both Old English and modern English. Then I went to Jef Murray’s slide show showing many of his Tolkien based works which he showed in chronological order for Tolkien’s universe. I bought a print of one of his vibrant dragons.

The highlight of the weekend was the actual Long Expected Party - Bilbo Baggins’ eleventy first and Frodo Baggins’ thirty third Birthday Party. The location, a part of the Village holdings that was a mile and a half from the Village proper, was perfect. The trees were hung with little cloth flags and lights. Everyone was in costume, including Billy Boyd Bear in his Pippin togs. The food, as it had been the entire time, was sublime - simply deadlicious! The entertainment perfect. We were all quite happy to listen to Bilbo’s speech, although he did say some rather odd things, but when he said good bye and disappeared in a flashing of blinding lights . . .! Well, we were all quite shocked. Then, to add to our discomfort, shortly afterwards there was a terrible disturbance as a strange rider in black rode down the road right behind where we were all seated at table! It asked for “Baggins” in a horrible voice. Gandalf called for the Rangers and it rode off at a full gallop. Many of us availed ourselves to the drinks at the cash bar after that, needing something to sooth the nerves. Soon, we were all back to dancing, singing and talking. It takes more than some strange Man in black to keep a crowd of Hobbits and their friends down for long.

In all, this was the perfect Tolkien get together, and we all happily insisted that our hosts do it all again. As of this time, they have given us an estimate of another splendid weekend being ours to enjoy in two to three years time.

I’m going to start setting my money aside starting this week!

Here is a link to my photos: http://pics.livejournal.com/pearltook1/gallery/0000dch6


( 17 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 1st, 2008 07:06 pm (UTC)
Oh Pearl! It sounded like you had a blast! What fun!
Oct. 1st, 2008 07:41 pm (UTC)
We all had a blast. I hope you can make it to the next one :-)
Oct. 1st, 2008 07:14 pm (UTC)
How wonderful, Pearl. I'm so happy for you. Were you there on your birthday?
Oct. 1st, 2008 07:44 pm (UTC)
No I wasn't, but I counted it as a birthday gift ;-) We weren't even there on the actual day of Bilbo and Frodo's birthday either, but no one seemed to mind - not even the birthday lads. It really was a wonderful time and place.
Oct. 1st, 2008 10:06 pm (UTC)
Wow! I kept thinking about you and wondering how you were enjoying yourself. Now I'm envious, in a good way.:)

Two to three years, huh. I may have to start saving for that one. That looked like just the kind of hobbity get-together I'd enjoy.

Prof. Drout is fantastic, isn't he. I've seen him at a couple of conventions and enjoyed his talks both times. He really does love what he's teaching and he can make an audiance love it, too.
Oct. 1st, 2008 10:12 pm (UTC)
Aw, sweet of you to be keeping me in mind. I think you would love it. I think most of my hobbity friends would have loved it, so I hope we can all make it next time.

Dr. Drout is fantastic. I love listening to him speak Anglo Saxon. He wore his doctoral regalia for his "costume" to the Party, which I thought was so cool!

Oct. 1st, 2008 11:05 pm (UTC)
Oooh! Were there fireworks?
Oct. 2nd, 2008 12:44 am (UTC)
You are the first one to ask about that! We were supposed to have a bonfire Thursday night and fireworks on Saturday at the party, but alas, that part of Kentucky has had a drought the last couple of months and was under a fire ban, so no bonfire and no fireworks.

Good to hear from you :-) I hope you are well and that school is going well.

Oct. 2nd, 2008 09:08 pm (UTC)
Maybe you can see Gandalf's fireworks next time.
Oct. 2nd, 2008 12:18 am (UTC)
That trip was amazingly magical! I'm soooo Happy I got to play music for it!
Oct. 2nd, 2008 12:48 am (UTC)
Oh my goodness! Hi Marc! You all were such a huge part of the magic. As I said in my post, the acoustic music was so much a part of the atmosphere, and you all put on a fantastic performance.

Thank you, I'm happy you got to play music for it too!

Oct. 2nd, 2008 01:04 am (UTC)
I'm missing it. *sigh*
Oct. 2nd, 2008 12:46 am (UTC)
Hey Pearly! Did you get to talk to the Bards? I've beeen following reports on this through marc's LJ.

Oct. 2nd, 2008 12:57 am (UTC)
Hi Wednesday! I did get to talk to them, well to Marc mostly. I complimented him on his autoharp playing. I've tried to play melodic autoharp and it is not easy. He is fantastic. I also complimented them on their performance. They are fun to listen to and it is so obvious that they love what they are doing.

Oct. 2nd, 2008 01:44 pm (UTC)
Heaven! You have pictures of Heaven!

What a fabulous get-together, and your pictures are great. Several of them will remain in my memory to fuel my story for some time to come. Thank you so much for sharing!
Oct. 2nd, 2008 05:45 pm (UTC)
You are so very welcome! I'm always glad to help someone with inspiration for their writing :-)

It was a most magical, wondrous time.
Oct. 5th, 2008 07:32 pm (UTC)
I would be mesmerized by the countryside alone, lol! Great photos -- loved those three young hobbit-lads at the bottom right. Reminded me of Frodo, Merry, and Pippin, they did.

I'm so happy you had a wonderful time and thanks for sharing the Shire!
( 17 comments — Leave a comment )