Steampunk Festivals for the Uninitiated

Tea with Deadpool

My first introduction to steampunk came during a playdate. Festival Director Heather Rockwood and I have daughters who are best friends, and we met up at Balfour Park so the girls could play together and we could chat about grown up things. We both work in non-profit fundraising and Heather had recently won a grant from the Attleboro Cultural Council to put on an educational “steampunk” festival. I didn’t understand it, but I like to support anything that brings the community together, and thought it sounded like a neat idea. I told Heather I’d help with the fundraising and now, several months later, we’re an official 501(c)(3) soliciting support and sponsorships, I’m a board member, and I’m rambling about why people should come to the Jewelry City Festival on October 28, even if they know absolutely nothing about steampunk.

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First of all, if you haven’t yet, read Heather’s introduction to steampunk from this past March titled “Interested in Steampunk, but Not Quite Sure About It?” Heather does a great job outlining the easy to find books, movies, and websites worth checking out if you’re intimidated by the term “steampunk.” Then, fear not, festival-goer, for I too am brand new to the world and culture of steampunk. I don’t own any fancy costumes, I don’t know what a dirigible is, and I’m still working out the whole train aspect of things—after years of taking the train into Boston, I’m not so keen on trains. What I do know is that this subculture has been incredibly welcoming to me and my family, despite our lack of costumes, and it’s sure to welcome you too.

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So that I could learn more about steampunk festivals, last spring I attended the Watch City Steampunk Festival in Waltham with my husband and daughter. As the oldest annual Steampunk festival in Massachusetts, it offered a great introduction into the culture that we were working to introduce with our festival here in Attleboro. At Watch City, we saw incredible costumes and characters, vendors who produced amazing, unique art, and wondrous machines and contraptions. Although many people came in costume, my husband, daughter, and I did not, but I assure you it didn’t matter. Everyone was happy to have our four-year-old ask questions about their costumes and they were excited to show off the best features of their machines. Although it seemed intimidating, we had a wonderful time as a family enjoying a slightly quirky side of Massachusetts we’d never seen before. Jewelry City Steampunk Festival will provide you and your family with a fun day of entertainment, educational activities, fairs, and people watching.

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This year, the Jewelry City Steampunk Festival is being held the weekend before Halloween. Even though you certainly don’t have to attend in costume, everyone is welcome to. Feel free to dress up in your Halloween costume and enter our costume contest, or just stroll around the festival sites— the Masonic Lodge, Balfour Park, Attleboro Public Library, Patterson Creations, and the Attleboro Area Industrial Museum—and take in the sights of the day. You’re sure to see people dressed as robots, fairies, and Victorian ladies and gentlemen (tea, anyone?). You may just see some costumes you’ve never dreamed of worn by people who are more than happy to show them off!

At its heart, the Jewelry City Steampunk Festival is about building community and sharing talents and fantasies in a family-friendly fashion. There will activities focused on gears, gumption, and ingenuity like you’ve never quite seen before (like splendid teapot racing!) For one day, parts of our city will be thrust into a fantastic timeline where the laws of physics don’t seem to apply like they do in everyday life. Come on down and see this amazing transformation for yourself and help us build up the community of Attleboro through a completely new festival that will awe you and may inspire you to create your own steampunk persona.

—Amy Erickson, JCSF board member


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