BELPRE - Tonight's fourth season premiere of "Downton Abbey" was celebrated in a traditional English tea on Saturday in Belpre.
Barbara Whitaker, co-owner of the Unicorn Wine Guild with her husband Joel, said the tea was planned as an event for a few fans of the English import that airs as part of the "Masterpiece Classics" series on PBS. Whitaker said the show is the highest rated show in the more than 40 year history of "Masterpiece Classics."
"I've enjoyed watching it over the past few years and we thought it would be fun to throw a little tea," she said. "I expected only a few people."
Whitaker said the response by area "Downton Abbey" fans to the tea was so popular that they had to have two seatings during Saturday's event.
"We had two seatings of 40-plus people," she said. "The idea was for people to meet people who are interested in the show and to see what an afternoon tea was like."
Whitaker said those who attended had to options of getting out their best modern clothing or their Victorian or Edwardian era clothing for the event.
Whitaker, who is a certified tea educator, said the popularity of the show has translated into an increased demand for English teas.
"We have 40 different teas,"she said. "Our tea purveyor lives in Dublin, Ohio; she is Indonesian and her family is in the business in Indonesia. She goes back and purchases what she wants and since a middle man or two are skipped her tea is a fresh as you can get."
Belpre resident Danielle Woods has enjoyed the show from its beginning. She said it was hard to speak about a favorite moment from the show.
"I have a few sad moments," she said. "I would have my favorite to say it was when Matthew (Crawley) married Lady Mary."
Woods described the death of Matthew at the end of the previous season as "awful."
Debora Foley and Beth Dennison, of Parkersburg, said they were attracted to more than the tie-in to a popular show when they decided to attend the Saturday tea.
"We came for the experience and for the history of it all," said Debora Foley. "It was also a mother-daughter bonding experience."
Foley said she is an avid watcher of the show while Dennison said she has seen a few episodes. Foley described her favorite moment.
"When Matthew proposed to Mary in the snow, it was beautiful," she said. "There have been a few tearjerker moments as well."
Foley said she has favorites among the servants in the series as well as among the aristocratic Crawley family.
"It's so fascinating how their lives are intertwined," she said. "Some of them are so evil and others are so sweet."
Sunday's fourth season premiere was broadcast at 9 p.m. on WPBY and WOUB.