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Posted on Sun. Jan. 12, 2014 - 12:31 am EDT

‘Downton’ fans gather at library

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FORT WAYNE — Sarah Heines and her mother, Jenny, arrived in elbow-length gloves and fur and lace shawls, just in time for high tea.

They were at the downtown Allen County Public Library, but the scene resembled something out of “Downton Abbey,” or in this case, “Downton Abbey Downtown.”

Whether newcomers to the PBS Masterpiece series or loyal fans since the first season, dozens of “Downton Abbey” fans attended the first of three “Downton Abbey Downtown” events to discuss the show’s web of storylines involving an aristocratic family and their servants in early-20th-century England.

“It just brings a community of ‘Downton Abbey’ lovers together,” Jenny Heines said. She said her daughter is responsible for getting her interested in the show.

“I just want to talk to people who know all the spoilers,” Sarah Heines said, laughing.

Local teahouse Sweet Violet’s Tea and Antiques served pastries and a variety of teas as viewers discussed the show in general and the first episode of the fourth season, which drew an average of 10.2 million viewers when it premiered last Sunday.

Guests were able to distinguish themselves as a “Rose” who wants to know what to expect this season, or a “Violet” who prefers to watch the series play out without spoilers.

Guests received formal invitations with their title such as lady or lord and count or countess handwritten on their invitations.

Nancy Saff, librarian for the art, music and media department, said the event was inspired by similar library programs elsewhere in the U.S.

“This show is fun, and I think what people enjoy is some of those details in the show,” she said. “We wanted to incorporate as much of those details in our event because we wanted to cater to those interests.”

With a full house for the first event, Saff said registration for the second event Feb. 1 starts today and registration for the third event on March 1 will begin Feb. 2.

The show’s link to history makes it an attractive draw for the library, she said.

“The writer for ‘Downton Abbey’ (Julian Fellowes) loves history and you can tell by the program,” Saff said.

“When you have that kind of love for history, and I think the viewers of the show have that, it makes you want to explore and learn more. It immediately sets your feet in motion to the library.”

Lee Harris, the only lord among the ladies in attendance, said the show is much more than a soap opera about a family. The cultural and historical background of the show could serve as a launch pad for those interested in their own lineage.

“This is the kind of thing I enjoy because I believe that a large public library like this, with one of the best genealogical departments in the country, is a perfect tie in to expand the cultural horizons of people,” he said. “This place should always be packed in my opinion.”

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