- Associated Press - Friday, February 5, 2016

HOOPESTON, Ill. (AP) - “Where’s Carson when you need him?”

Sipping their tea, the women laughed, and joked that the house maids were missing, as well.

Instead, two assistants at the Hoopeston Public Library had to step in as servants during “An Afternoon at Downton” last month.

Fans of “Downton Abbey,” know that Carson is the butler who keeps the mansion running smoothly on the hit PBS TV show. And fans are familiar with all of the characters who live upstairs in comfort and those who toil downstairs.

So it was at the afternoon tea, when two men and 22 women set aside reality for a while, while they enjoyed sweets, savories, shortbread and scones, and discussed some of their favorite scenes. They also learned the proper way to prepare and drink tea.

Next, they took a trivia test about the show, now in its sixth and final season. Mary Williams of Watseka and Janet Smith of Rossville answered all 20 questions correctly.

The participants also had a chance to make a vintage bookmark - a strip of lace, which they decorated with baubles, similar to the style of the early 1900s.

Some of the women arrived in hats and clothing similar to that worn on the show, which follows an aristocratic family from 1912 into the 1920s.

When the Rev. Larry Houseman, retired minister with the First Methodist Church, walked into the room, someone called out “Father Brown!” That was quickly followed by someone saying, “wrong show” - a reference to another PBS drama on a different evening.

Still, in a room full of Anglophiles, the remark drew a laugh.

Mary Jo Houseman, the minister’s wife, wore an authentic hat from that time period. The Housemans had lived in England for three months, so they were familiar with many of the tea-time customs.

Patricia Burch, 78, of Hoopeston arrived in a lace burgundy dress, hat and her grandmother’s spectacles (which she could see out of fine). The dress and hat were simply part of her current-day wardrobe.

Burch said she enjoys “Downton” and other PBS shows, adding, “It takes you back to that era - it’s like you’re there.”

Other women remarked that they “absolutely” love the show, and Janet Smith said she owns all five seasons on DVD, and has ordered the last one.

Library assistant JoAnn Charbonneau admitted she has never seen the show, but noted that the DVDs carried by the library are popular.

She said to the participants, “Whether you’re a fan or not, it’s a fun time. And who doesn’t like a tea party?”

The tables were set for a “full tea,” complete with china, candles, crocheted potholders for the teapots, and lace runners. Charbonneau explained that a full tea has small sandwiches, such as cucumber or chicken salad, as well as sweets (cupcakes, in this case), scones and biscuits (that is, cookies). It differs from a high tea, which is a supper that includes meat.

She also talked about the history of tea, how it should be prepared and how people should sip - not slurp - their drink.

“An Afternoon at Downton” was offered, she said, because the staff was looking for different fun things to bring people into the library.

The Downton event was the brainchild of library assistant Janell Sechriest, who’s a “big fan” of the show.

She said the library already has a “Coffee and Coloring” program for adults, which attracts five to 10 women each month, but it wants to offer more activities.

“We plan to do more activities, such as sewing or crocheting, once a month,” Sechriest said.

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Source: (Danville) Commercial News, https://bit.ly/1S5JKJe

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Information from: Commercial-News, https://www.dancomnews.com

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