Tigers leaping through rings of fire, seals balancing balls and playful monkeys are featured attractions -- but at this circus, animals are made of plant material and the rings of fire are actually fire-colored chrysanthemums. "Under the Big Top" is the theme of this year's Chrysanthemum Festival, which opened yesterday and runs through Nov. 20 at Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pa.
The circus theme offers a colorful backdrop for the equally colorful 20,000 chrysanthemums. Calliope music sets the mood as a pair of grapevine elephants leads the way to Longwood's Big Top. Inside, fun-house mirrors are sure to put a smile on your face, along with antique circus wagons, carousel animals and three teams of miniature circus wagons. The Exhibition Hall has been transformed into a three-ring circus with various topiary animals sharing the stage on weekends with professional clowns who tumble, unicycle, stilt-walk and juggle in a show that runs from noon to 4 p.m. A roving clown provides entertainment during the week.
On weekends, visitors can join the 11:45 a.m. parade to Center Ring, where a ringmaster and circus band open the show. Double-Dutch jump-rope champions perform there on Saturdays along with the clowns. In the ballroom, a magician and his rabbit perform magic, and Tuckers Tales Puppet Theatre presents a variety show. A snake-charming puppeteer, a sketch artist and a monkey-toting vaudevillian also entertain. High-school bands perform Saturdays and Oct. 30.
Weekday activities include stilt-walking, juggling and tricks by the strolling clown from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. At 2 p.m., Longwood's staff give talks on planning the festival gardens and floral arrangements, and food demonstrations will be featured Nov. 7-11.
Festival hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The gardens are on U.S. Route 1, three miles northeast of Kennett Square. Drivers should be aware of possible traffic delays due to highway improvements on U.S. Route 1 and should look for alternative access routes. Call (800) 737-5500 or (610) 388-1000.
In Virginia, if you're an oyster lover, you will probably be found at the Urbanna Oyster Festival, the state's official oyster festival, during the first weekend in November. The event attracts fans to the little Rappahannock river-front town from well beyond the state's border.
Urbanna's harbor will be crowded with all kinds of boats, from work boats to pleasure boats to visiting tall ships, while the town celebrates with two parades, live bands, arts and crafts, food booths and a street carnival. Musical entertainment will be featured throughout the festival, along with craft demonstrations and oysters and seafood prepared in every conceivable way.
On Friday evening after the Fireman's Parade, bands will perform until 11 p.m. Saturday's highlights will be the Virginia Oyster Shucking Championship and the big festival parade at 2 p.m.
Festival hours are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday; 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. 'D Saturday. Admission is free. Call (804) 758-5540.
Annapolis by Candlelight
See Annapolis by Candlelight on Friday evening between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m., when Historic Annapolis Foundation presents a tour of historic homes representing three centuries of history and architecture in the Annapolis Historic District.
Fifteen private homes will be open, including the Upton-Scott house, considered one of the gems of the Georgian era.
Admission is $25. Admission buttons will be on sale at the Maritime Museum, 77 Main St., across from City Dock, any day between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. A map showing the location of all sites will be included in the program. Free parking will be available on state parking lots B and C on Bladen Street. Tour-goers will receive a discount at participating restaurants listed in the program. Call (410) 267-7619.
Gift time again
Now is the time to think about holiday gift giving, and one place to get a jump on your shopping list is the Hagley's Festival of Museum Shopping next weekend at the Hagley Museum and Library in Wilmington. This year's festival features 27 shops from museums throughout the region.
Shops will be set up in Hagley's Library building and Soda House, and they will be open 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. New additions this year are the Delaware Toy and Miniature Museum, the B&O; Railroad Museum, the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania and Harmonia Early Music of Washington.
Shoppers can choose from a wide selection of items ranging from bird feeders to blue-crab bay clam dip, recordings of Colonial American music, T-shirts, folk-art Santas, model-boat kits and quilts, to name a few. Light lunch and snack items will be available, and a free shuttle service will operate between the two buildings and the parking lot. Admission is $3.50 for adults; free for under 6. Use the museum's Buck Road East entrance off Route 100. Call (302) 658-2400.
Apples will be available in many forms at the annual Apple Festival at Peddler's Village in Lahaska, Pa., Saturday and Nov. 6. Enjoy them fresh from the orchard, dipped in caramel, frittered, in shortcake and preserves or pressed into cider. The village's apple-pie-eating contest is a tradition at the festival, and it will be held both days at 3 p.m.
More than 60 crafts people will be on hand to demonstrate and sell their wares, including stoneware and redware pottery, decorative ironwork, hand-painted and reproduction furniture, and jewelry. A full schedule of entertainment features an old-fashioned medicine show; two performances by the Mock Turtle Marionette Theater; a one-man band; two performances by the Tuckers Tales Puppet Theater; and traditional Appalachian mountain dances by the Renegade Cloggers.
The festival is held, rain or shine, from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Admission is free. Peddler's Village is located in Bucks County at Routes 202 and 263 in Lahaska. Call (215) 794-4000.
"Happy hour" in Philadelphia has a new dimension. A Tippler's Tour, sponsored by Historic Philadelphia Inc., gives visitors an opportunity to discover tavern life of the 18th century. The tour leaves from Independence Park Visitor Center, Third and Chestnut streets, every Friday in November at 4:45 p.m.
Participants visit three sites: the Artful Dodger, the Powell House and the newly reopened City Tavern, a favorite drinking and eating establishment of the Founding Fathers. At each site visitors can sample an early-American drink, including beer based on an ale recipe by Thomas Jefferson. Tickets cost $15 and include a free drink at each stop. Call (215) 629-5801.
The Washington, D.C., American-Indian Antiques Show brings museum-quality American-Indian antiques to the East for the first time Saturday and Nov. 6. Over 75 nationally recognized dealers and galleries will offer fine Navajo rugs, Plains Indian beadwork and Apache baskets, along with frontier accouterments and weaponry. The show will be held at the Hyatt Regency-Crystal City in Arlington, Va.
Seminars provide information about collecting American-Indian art. Saturday's seminars cover Great Lakes and Woodlands Indian cultures at 4:30 p.m. and North American-Indian basketry at 6 p.m. On Sunday the topics are Navajo weaving at 9 a.m. and Cheyenne moccasins at 3:30 p.m.
Show hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $6 and is good for both days. Tickets for seminars cost $15 per session. Call (410) 592-3229.