The newest season of "Downton Abbey" doesn't premiere until January. Until then, zealous fans plan parties and dress in their best period pieces to celebrate the phenomenal Masterpiece hit show.
"I am so frustrated to have to wait," joked Destin resident Cathy Smith. It was her niece that got Smith interested in the show. As with most fans, after one episode Smith was hooked.
"She sent me her DVDs of the show and I sat and watched it for 15 hours," Smith said.
Last month, the local PBS affiliate, WSRE, celebrated the show with Linen & Lace, a tea party fit for a queen at the Pensacola Country Club. Now the Downton party is heading to Niceville with "No Shrinking Violets: Tea Time, Southern Women and Downtown Abbey."
"I'm looking forward to making new Downton friends and talking to my niece about it," Smith said.
Niceville's Judy Byrne Riley will be hosting the event at her home on Bayshore Drive. Riley and her husband are regular entertainers. When the chance arose for her to throw a "Downton Abbey" themed event to support WSRE, she jumped at the opportunity.
"I followed the series from the beginning," she said. "My husband and I love to entertain, so I'm looking forward to everything being in its place and then to make sure everyone has a good time. I'm honored to support WSRE."
Another Destin resident, Libbie Hambleton, is looking forward to holding her pinkies up at a Downton Abbey-themed event.
"I have really enjoyed the Downton Abbey series from the first episode," she said. "It's always tough when the short season ends and you know it's a long wait before it starts again. I've never been to a Downton Event but this tea sounds like fun and should hold us over a bit until the next season."
As a promoter for a different public media outlet, WUWF radio, Hambleton has enjoyed seeing PBS gather a broader audience.
"It's been so interesting to watch the country go Dowton crazy," she said. "I hope that has translated into higher donations for PBS."
A major facet to these Downton parties is dressing in your best. The show's costume production is often lauded by fans.
"People love to dress up," Riley said. "It's Halloween in June, but without the masks and ghosts."
Some choose to go all out — long gloves, elaborate hats and all — and some are a bit more subtle.
Smith has already plucked a black lace top from her wardrobe to wear with a long strand of pearls. While Riley won't be in full costume, she will wear "a feather or two."
Mixing the worlds of the Southern debutante and the high-society English woman, guest speaker and author Melinda Rainey Thompson will share some of her wit and humor with an essay titled "No Shrinking Violets" a pun on one of the show's main characters Violet Crawley, played by Maggie Smith.
"I'm a huge fan of the show," Thompson said. "One of my kids asked me if I was going to be the 'mean, old lady.' I guess we do have a lot of similarities."
Violet Crawley — the 'mean, old lady' — is the most outspoken character of the show and usually gets to deliver punchy one-liners, a task Thompson said she would feel right at home with.
"I love the wit and dry humor of the show," she said. "I feel like I would fit in at Downton Abbey."
Thompson said she is looking forward to the "grown-up dress-up party," but hopes she's not the only one to go all out.
"This better not be a joke on the guest," she said with a laugh. "I worked hard on my costume."
Want to go?
"Shrinking Violets: Tea Time, Southern Women and Downton Abbey" will be Sunday, June 23 from 3 to 5 p.m. at the home of Judy Byrne Riley, 1501 Bayshore Dr., Niceville. Tickets are $40. For more information, visit wsre.org/tea or call 484-1054.