Last week we hosted an afternoon tea for the amazing Belles & Beaus of Jacksonville. It was so much fun. Belles & Beaus of Jacksonville is a group of men and women who join together and dress up in Victorian-era clothing with great attention to detail. Even their little sachet purses & shoes are of the Victorian. The dresses were extraordinary! They added so much light to the Bayberry Inn B&B and it felt like we’d all gone back in time. How lucky we were that the amazing photographer Cornelius Matteo was there to photograph the event for us. The theme of the event was ‘Downtown Abby’ and while Cornelius wasn’t really the Thomas Barrow, the first footman , I certainly was Mrs.Patmore, or so I’d like to think.

It was our first time hosting this group of lovely ladies and it was a hoot! Although only 7 of the Belles & Beaus ladies came for the Bayberry afternoon tea, the whole group consists of up to 40 members in the Jacksonville chapter. Their story is fascinating; from a small casual chat about liking to dress up and the closing down of the only costume shop in Jacksonville, came the birth of the first chapter of Belles & Beaus. They meet often, dressed to the nines, to just enjoy themselves. When I asked where the men were, I was promptly told that ‘men don’t go the ladies tea,’ which I should have known, but somehow didn’t. The men arrange other male only events like a hunts, cigar room cocktails and such. The minute the ladies started arriving, the Bayberry Inn was transformed to it’s old charm splendor; it’s as if the building had been waiting for them!

We love to host events and this one was an amazing debut into the event hosting world for us. We made lovely little finger foods, such as little smoked salmon tea sandwiches & cucumber¬† sandwiches with cream cheese & herbs, sugar cookie cups filled with fresh cream & berries, scones with butter, strawberry jam topped with cream, and not to forget the delicious lemon cup cakes topped with vanilla frosting. After our tea, the ladies went outside for an impromptu photo shoot where they stood in front of the Bayberry Inn sign on Main Street and waved at the people & cars passing by. I’ve never heard so many people honk & shout with glee at these lovely ladies, waving like Queen Victoria would have! It was so much fun. Living in a small town where the epicenter is the Oregon Shakespeare Festival & seeing people in costume is not uncommon, especially as one of the feature stores in downtown Ashland on the town square is Belles & Beaus. Oh what a fabulous costume shop Renaissance Rose is! Of course, the owner of Renaissance Rose is a member of Belles & Beaus and her costume was to die for! Ashlandites are not without great imagination, and seeing a group of ladies out of the Victorian Era was the highlight of Main Street. I know it was the highlight of the Bayberry!