Most fans of J. R. R. Tolkien wish they could escape to Middle Earth – and to the peaceful area of ‘The Shire’. That is exactly what a group of hobbits, elves, rangers and wizards did last week! The gently rolling grounds at Shaker Village near Harrodsburg, Kentucky, drew more than 100 to A Long Expected Party 2.
Each day began with a short walk in the crisp morning air to breakfast in the Trustee’s Dining Room. How do you fill a hungry hobbit? With many helpings of sausage, bacon, eggs, grits, potatoes and fried apples! Oh, I forgot the biscuits and jam! With a full stomach we hurried out to begin our day!
Michael Cook, our master armor and weapons maker, demonstrated to Lord Elrond that his handmade sword was so balanced you could hold it with one finger. Michael not only makes his swords, but his chain mail and all leather goods. He is a master craftsman – in addition to being a great teacher!
At his archery class he was very patient with me. After a couple of fumbling tries – and a smaller bow – and I actually hit the target!
During his weapons class, Michael introduced many new fighting tools, along with swords and shields – and the proper usage of each!
The hardest choice we had to make on our first day was between a hike through ‘The Shire’ or a boat ride down the beautiful Kentucky River. The hike gave its participants a jaunt through the gently rolling lands of Shaker Village. With the additional rain of the last couple of weeks, the streams were gurgling along – and rocks were piled for a make-shift bridge.
Our choice was the boat ride, which made for a very relaxing afternoon. Our captain pointed out various examples of wildlife along the way, and gave a history lesson of the area.
The day was lovely – a bright blue sky, white clouds and just a gentle breeze. A day to warm the heart of any hobbit or wizard! Including Bilbo Baggins himself!
A lesson in making Lembas Bread was the perfect pre-dinner activity! The winter kitchen was full – standing room only! I was quite surprised to have such an audience! Perhaps they came for the tea and Lembas Bread we shared after the lesson! After the hike and boat ride, a little refreshment was appreciated!
The banquet hall for the evening’s festivities for Dinner in the House of Lord Elrond was set up in Meadow View Barn on Shaker Village property. It was festively decorated with marble columns, banners and gauzy material to portray the ‘other worldliness’ of the Elfin community.
A buffet dinner of Grilled Herb Chicken, Eggplant Parmesan, Vegetable Medley, Salsify Casserole and Tomato-Cucumber Salad was a-waiting – with Ginger Cake and Shaker Lemon Pie for dessert!
The evening’s entertainment included skits, singing and dancing. The angelic voices of the elf choir enchanted everyone with selections from the musical, The Lord of the Rings.
Into the West, sung by Kate Folsom and May It Be, by Kate and the elves was a magical way to end the evening.
During the day classes and lectures were offered by an esteemed group:
Michael Drout, Professor of English at Wheaton College in Massachusetts, read a section of Beowulf in old English one evening. His lectures on There and Back Again, A World Worth Saving and Scholarship were phenomenal – too bad I don’t live close enough to take some of his classes!
Jef Murray, our Tolkien artist-in-residence for the conference, gave lectures on Tips for Travelers to Sub-Creative Realms, Sub-Creation as a Spiritual Journey, and during one lecture showed slides of his art that have been used in many published Tolkien, and about-Tolkien books. He is a fantastic artist and illustrator that makes Middle Earth come alive.
Constance Wagner taught writing classes – to help the muse – for many of our attendees are writers themselves. Wild Words of Wonder, Frodo and Faramir: Mirrors of Chilvary and sessions on poetry were presented.
Marc Gunn along with Samantha Gillogly and Jamie Haeuser were musician’s extraordinaire for the entire event. During the day you might see them sitting on a bench, playing away to a small crowd – or lunch entertainment, especially on Friday and Saturday when it was cold. Everyone headed for The Dancing Pony for lunch in the warm winter kitchen! Nightly, before and after our dinner, we were regaled with tunes that set our feet to tapping – and some just had to get up and dance! And these brave souls even closed The Dancing Pony in the wee hours of the morning after much fun of singing and dancing by all!
Friday dawned chilly and crisp! Cloaks were a welcome added layer to costumes! Shaker Village had many extra visitors – school groups and others – who were unsure what to make of the elves and hobbits they encountered!
Friday night was Dinner in the Wooden Halls of the Horse Lords, featuring Prime Rib, Roasted Corn Salad, Roasted Red Potatoes, Creamed Spinach, Carrot Cake and Bourbon Chocolate Cake.
Well-dressed lords and ladies enjoyed the festivities. Hilarious skits were the hit of the evening! But the night took on an eerier feel as all the lanterns from the tables were removed to the stage. One by one ghost stories about earlier inhabitants of Shaker Village – that still roam the halls and stairs of the old buildings – were shared. Perhaps in the very room you are staying? Sleep well, everyone! A ghost tour was available for later in the evening! While you are in the dark, would a little scratch on the window frighten you?
Saturday was cold – but did that dampen anyone’s spirits? Not this group!
More lectures, the archery tournament – and dinner under the huge party tree!
and a food tent for a lovely meal – Mushroom Chicken, Vegetable Pasta, Caesar Salad, Mashed Potatoes, Green Beans, Salsify Casserole, Apple Cake and Bourbon Chocolate Cake.
Even Lord Elrond can still polka with the best of them!
Now who wouldn’t want to live in a snug hobbit house and live a happy life in ‘The Shire’?
As Bilbo ends the book on his adventures “and they all lived happily ever after!”