What to do: Downton, WC May Day arts fest, beastly ballet

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No shortage of fun, entertainment options this first weekend of May

By Denny DyroffCorrespondent, The Times

Downton

The fashions of Downton Abbey — the popular BBC/PBS show — are currently featured at Winterthur.

Winterthur’s annual Point-to-Point Races are usually held at the start of May. Being staged so close to May 5 each year, the event frequently has a heavy Cinco de Mayo party vibe.

This year will be different. This year, the sprawling estate in Delaware just south of Kennett Square, will have a decidedly British flavor — for good reason.

Now through Jan. 4, 2015, Winterthur is hosting “Costumes of Downton Abbey”, an original exhibition of exquisite designs from the award-winning television series. Forty historically-inspired costumes from the TV production are displayed.

Three other events on this weekend’s entertainment calendar that have established themselves as area traditions are the West Chester May Day Festival of Arts on May 4, Brandywine Ballet’s annual spring production, which will be presented on May 3 and 4 and Hagley Museum’s “Nature Fest,” which is scheduled for May 3.

“Downton Abbey” is a British period drama television series that first aired in the United Kingdom and Ireland in September 2010 and made its American debut four months later on PBS as part of the Masterpiece Classic anthology.

The popular television series is set in the fictional Yorkshire country estate of Downton Abbey, a Yorkshire country house that is the seat of the Earl and Countess of Grantham. It focuses on the lives of the aristocratic Crawley family and their servants during the reign of King George V.

This attractive assortment of authentic costumes is supplemented by photographs and vignettes inspired by the fictional program — and by real life at Winterthur. This juxtaposing allows visitors to experience the world of “Downton Abbey” and the contrasting world of Winterthur founder Henry Francis du Pont and his contemporaries in the first half of the 20th century.

The costumes are on loan from Cosprop, the world’s leading costumier to film, television and theater. “Fashion in Film,” which established itself as Winterthur’s most popular exhibition when it attracted more than 42,000 people over its three-month run, also featured costumes by Cosprop.

The Winterthur Point-to-Point, which is held along Route 52 in northern Delaware, features a variety of cross country equestrian events with an emphasis on the steeplechase races

The races, which are on a course just over three miles long, include eight fences that are jumped 17 times. Post time for the first steeplechase event is the Isabella du Pont Sharp Memorial Maiden Timber Race at 2 p.m.

The festive, one-day event will also include all of its other traditional annual features such as the “Parade of Antique Carriages”, pony rides, food tents, the traditional opening ceremony with bagpipers and the legendary “Tailgate Picnic Competition”.

The list of special family activities includes “Stick-Horse Races,” “Canine Capers” (a playground area for dogs) and “Winterthur Hunt” featuring “Personal Ponies” (equine safety program).

General admission tickets are $50 for adults and $15 for youth (ages 12-20). For additional information, call (800) 48-3883 or visit www.winterthur.org.

When May arrives each year, people from around the area know that it is time for West Chester’s annual May Day Festival of the Arts. This year’s staging of the event will be on May 4 from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. in Everhart Park, which is located downtown West Chester.

The family-oriented free festival will host more than 40 vendors with exhibits and sales booths featuring a variety of high-quality juried arts and crafts. There will also be an array of crafts demonstrations by the participating artisans and a number of food and beverage vendors in the park.

The festival also features attractions, games and activities geared for youngsters, including children’s rides and a moon bounce.

The entertainment schedule this year features the West Chester Performing Arts Studio, Al Angello (juggler, magician, comic), Pedro Villasenor & The Authentic Mariachi Experience, Dick Rainer (stilt walker) and the Maypole Dancers & West Chester Dance Works.

 

The West Chester May Day Festival of the Arts (610-436-9010, www.west-chester.com) will take place on May 4 from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. in Everhart Park, which is located at West Union Street and South Bradford Avenue in West Chester.

The Brandywine Ballet (610- 696-2711, www.brandywineballet.com) will stage its production of “Beauty and The Beast” as its spring performance on May 3 and 4 at West Chester University’s Emilie K. Asplundh Concert Hall.

The performances mark Brandywine Ballet’s second staging of “Beauty & the Beast” after having premiered the work in the spring of 2012. The current production features original choreography by Ballet Mistress and Resident Choreographer, Nancy Page.

Page has successfully adapted the traditional fairy tale for ballet while preserving the show’s message which emphasizes the importance of looking beyond appearances and finding inner beauty.

Performances are slated for May 3 at 4 p.m. and May 4 at 2 p.m. Tickets for these performances are $ 25, $30 and $40 with senior and student discounts available.

On May 3, Hagley Museum and Library (Buck Road off route 100, Wilmington, Delaware, 302-685-2400 or www.hagley.org) is hosting its Third Annual NatureFest from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. This family event provides a fun learning opportunity for kids and encourages them to explore our environment.

NatureFest’s theme for 2014 is “Wind.” Visitors will be able to discover the many ways that wind helps us — from creating energy to pollinating plants. Other options are participating in a nature hike, exploring the E. I. du Pont garden, and taking a behind-the-scenes tour of the greenhouse.

The list of special activities includes miniature wind turbines, “Flying Insect Table” by the Delaware Museum of Natural History, hot air balloons, “Water Purification, Polymers, and Rainbows” by the American Chemical Society, a garden scavenger hunt; a “Bee-a-Pollinator Garden,” “Plan a Wind Project and Wind Art,” anemometers and weathervanes, tree climbing, wind-blown seeds and a “Wind Mobile.”

Tags: Brandywine Ballet, Downton Abbey, Hagley Museum and Library, Steeplechase, West Chester May Day Festival of the Arts, Winterthur

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