While season four of the wildly popular Masterpiece Theater series “Downton Abbey” is wrapping up in the United Kingdom, viewers on this side of the pond are anxiously awaiting the show’s Jan. 5 premiere.
Friends of Allandale board members hope to cash in on that anticipation with a “Downton Abbey” themed fundraising dinner beginning at 7 p.m., Jan. 3 at Kingsport’s own Highclere Castle — Allandale Mansion.
Tickets are $100 per person, with proceeds (after costs) going to Allandale’s amphitheater fund for lighting and sound equipment.
Heading up the event is Friends of Allandale president and avid “Downton Abbey” fan Fred Wallin and his wife, Dorothy, with assistance from fellow Friends of Allandale members Mike and Cathy Harvey and Kingsport’s “hostess with the mostess” Debbie Waggoner.
“Last year before season three began, we had a ‘Downton Abbey’ weekend with our friends, Mike and Cathy Harvey, and we watched both seasons on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday leading up to the first episode of season three,” Wallin said. “Somewhere during that period, somebody said, we need to have a party. Cathy, at the time, was on the board of Friends of Allandale, and I was the vice chair — I’m president this year — so we decided that we wanted to have it before the third season ended, but unfortunately we just ran out of time. It only runs for eight weeks, so that’s not much time to put together a party.”
Guests can catch the last episode of season three at the open bar in the piano room from 7 to 7:30 p.m., during which time champagne and hors d’oeuvres will be served in both the upstairs and downstairs halls. Chauffeurs in livery will be served coffee and sandwiches in the garage.
The gourmet sit-down dinner is straight from “The Unauthorized Downton Abbey Cookbook,” and will feature such dishes as Lady Mary’s Crab Canapés; Lady Edith’s Spinach Salad with Goat Cheese, Toasted Walnuts and Pears; Lord Grantham’s Roasted Rosemary Cornish Game Hen; Thomas’ Brazen Red Cabbage; Sweet Anna’s Dark Chocolate Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce and more.
“I’m learning to cook, and my wife got me last Christmas ‘The Unauthorized Downton Abbey Cookbook.’ We gave that to the chef who’s cooking, and he came up with a menu. ... Of course all of these things are tied in with the characters,” Wallin said. “Some of the things didn’t have names, so we took a little literary license and named them.”
Period clothing or cocktail attire is encouraged, but not required. Men may rent tails at most tuxedo rental retailers, Wallin said, and women can find suitable attire at resale and antique shops. For those who can sew, period “Downton Abbey” patterns are available through Amazon.
The event is limited to 88 guests, with seating in the mansion’s living room, dining room, bride’s room and library. As of late last week, well over half of the seats had already been reserved.
“We can only seat 88, although we’re thinking of putting two tables in the master bedroom, which would give us another 12, which would bring us up to 100,” Wallin said. “It’s first come with check, first serve.”
For reservations or more information, call Allandale at (423) 229-9422.
“We’ve just had a ball putting it together,” Wallin said. “My wife Dorothy and Kathy Harvey have been on the committee to organize it, and most of the board members have chipped in their thoughts and time. Right now we’ve filled it with mostly members or Friends of Allandale, but we would love to have community people come and enjoy Allandale and the festivities.”
Wallin said Friends of Allandale is tossing around the idea of hosting a “Duck Dynasty” fundraising picnic at the amphitheater in the summer.
“We’re not just high-brow snobs. We are a little of that, but we also have our country side,” Wallin said.