By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News
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“We are doing more than tea and crumpets this year,” said Nathan Barnett, an organizer of this year's festival.
“We're bringing in some new stuff, things that show what was really going on in Port Townsend in the 1880s,” said Barnett, co-owner of the Old Consulate Inn.
The nonprofit Victorian Society in America-Northwest Chapter, which oversaw the 16-year-old festival from 2009-12, has turned it over to Olympic Peninsula Steam, of which Barnett is a charter member.
Advance tickets are on sale for the Victorian Heritage Festival, which is set for March 21-24 in locations around Port Townsend.
An early-bird price of $20 for general admission tickets — which covers most presentations and demonstrations, though not museums, tours, the Victorian Ball, a special fundraising dinner or other ticketed events — is in effect until Friday.
After that, the ticket will cost $25. Last year, it was $35.
“A lot of people didn't come in the past because tickets were too expensive,” said Cindy Bryant, Barnett's wife and fellow organizer.
“For them, $20 isn't a lot of money, and we think more people will participate because tickets cost less this year,” she said.
For years, the festival focused on fashions and crafts, Barnett said.
In 2012, it added a 19th-century prize fight with bare knuckles, fencing demonstration, antique gun exhibition and a Gatling gun demonstration.
This year, it will continue those innovations, as well as offering lectures on Victorian costuming, gardening and culture.
Barnett, who was co-leader of last June's Steampunk festival, said that Olympic Peninsula Steam is an umbrella for both Steampunk and the Victorian Festival, which provide different views of the same era.
“It's the difference between a historical novel and a fantasy novel,” Barnett said.
“With the Victorian Festival, there are a lot of details that you need to get right, but with Steampunk, no one can tell you that you are doing it wrong.”
The Port Townsend Main Street program will shoot the latest in a series of community portraits at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, March 23 at Pope Marine Park across from City Hall.
Anyone attending the festival can participate and all are encouraged to wear Victorian dress for the occasion, according to Main Street Executive Director Mari Mullen.
Among the returning activities is a corset demonstration by Sarah Chrisman and her husband, Gabriel, at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, March 23 in the Cotton Building, 607 Water St. Other familiar activities will be a fashion show, textile demonstrations, historical lectures, and walking and bus tours.
Chrisman said this year's festival has three tracks: the traditional fashion, the “manly arts” and gardening.
“In Victorian times, gardening was both a genteel pastime and a way of life since a lot of people grew their own food,” she said.
The gardening component will include a presentation by Ann Lovejoy, who will talk about deer-proofing gardens at 5:30 p.m. Friday, March 22, at the Silverwater Cafe's Studio 49 at 237 Taylor St.
Listeners then will sit down to a $75-a-plate “Deer and Roses” dinner, featuring rack of venison, “because turn-about is fair play,” says the website at www.victorianfestival.org.
A vegetarian option will be available “for the tender-hearted,” the website says.
The dinner will raise money for the festival.
Victorian Teas are planned Saturday, March 23, and Sunday, March 24, in the Old Consulate Inn, 313 Walker St., and the Blue Gull Inn, 1310 Clay St.
Tickets are $25, and reservations are needed.
Two dances at the American Legion Hall, 209 Monroe St., are scheduled: a contra dance at 7 p.m. Friday, March 23. with admission a suggested donation of $5; and the following night, the Victorian Ball, considered the signature event of the festival, costing $15 in advance and $20 at the door.
Live music for the Victorian Ball, set from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., will be provided by Broken Dreams.
The Friday dance is part of the effort to become more inclusive, Barnett said.
“Port Townsend has an amazing history,” Bryant said.
“We want to get more kids to come down, because they know nothing about the cool, innovative parts of the town.”
For more information about this year's event or to purchase tickets, go to www.victorianfestival.org.
Tickets also are available in Port Townsend at Quimper Sound, 230 Taylor St.; Daily Bird Pottery, 1101 Water St. Old Consulate Inn, 313 Walker St.; Vasu Video, 1030 Lawrence St.; and Vintage Hardware, 2000 Sims Way.
Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.