Thursday, November 17, 2016

Steampunk November Festival 2016

Of course they have a TARDIS.
Regular readers of this blog know I really love Steampunk November.  So much that it's the only steampunk event I've attended this year.  (It's been a rough few years personally.)

If you're not familiar with the event, let me briefly explain it.  It's basically a Renaissance Faire, but for steampunk.  It's held on some rural property just south of Dallas in Mansfield, TX.  It's currently a three day festival of live music, dance and variety performances, and vending.

This was my third time attending and vending at this festival in four years.  (One year I was ill.) I've been able to watch the event grow from a large party to a full-fledged festival, and I've gotten to know the organizers and a lot of people involved with it.  Pretty much every time I talk to a Texas steampunk I ask, "Are you going to Steampunk November?  You should go to Steampunk November."
The new Gypsy Stage.  How gorgeous is that?

This year was definitely the biggest yet, with an entire new area of vendors and a 4th stage. There were more acts, especially musical acts, and more variety.  There were also a lot of small improvements to the site and I was seriously impressed at the amount of work that had been put into it.

For me, the experience of going to Steampunk November as a vendor is like going to a family reunion.  I know a lot of the people and a lot of them know me.  But I talked to quite a few new vendors over the weekend and they all expressed wonder at how welcoming and friendly everyone was.  It's normal to see someone walking around looking dazed and saying "this place is incredible!"

Unlike some other steampunk events, this isn't a convention.  The focus is on performers and vendors rather than educational panels.  The line-up for performers is long and consisted of musical acts, belly dancers, sideshow acts, and other comedy/variety acts.  Since I spent most of my time in my booth, I only really got to see the acts performing on the two stages in the original central area.  And even then I heard the acts more than saw them.
The Phantom Sensation performing

Because I didn't get to really see the non-musical acts I'll just focus on the bands.  Besides, part of my main reason to go to cons and events is to see live music.

 My favorite bands of the weekend were Plunk Murray, The Phantom Sensation, The Long Losts, and Frenchy and the Punk. Plunk Murray is a local Dallas Celtic Punk/Rock band and I totally enjoyed their set on Sunday morning.  The Phantom Sensation is a Fort Worth band who call themselves a punk rock, southern gothic, blackgrass band.  They played several times over the weekend and I caught bits and pieces and was really impressed with them.   The Long Losts are a goth punk duo from New York and they were seriously awesome.  I mean, my tastes incline in that direction, but I loved them.  They are also both very nice people. And finally there's Frenchy and the Punk.  They were the Saturday night headliners and only were able to play one set but they were awesome, as always.  This is the third time I've seen them and they are always a great time.
Frenchy and the Punk (at soundcheck)

The selection of vendors was fantastic.  There were a ton this year, and in general the quality of the merchandise was high.  The focus was definitely on handmade items, not the kind of factory-produced stuff you see at most comic cons.  The wares covered everything from steampunk costumes and jewelry to fine art, glasswares, books, and more.

There may have been a few too many vendors there for the size of the crowd, from a money-making point of view.  Certainly there is room for the festival to grow in attendance and it never felt crowded, but it wasn't ever empty either.  From talking to other vendors how well they did ranged wildly from breaking even to raking it in.  But pretty much everyone I talked to said how much they enjoyed the event and that it was worth it to show up just for the experience.  (This is the category I fall in really.  I never make huge money at this show, but I always make some and I really enjoy it.  This year I didn't have as much stock as I would have liked due to being laid up recently.  But I made more than I expected.)

My husband and I in front of
the Steam Ingenious booth.
The only real complaint I heard was regarding food options.  The only on-site food was an Italian-themed food truck.  They had a nice variety of food available from salads, sandwiches, pasta, and fried snacks.  But the line was long and the wait for food was even longer.  I know some people got frustrated.  Everything I ate was good, though, and the organizers have said they are planning on having more food vendors next year.

The other attractions of the festival are two wine-tastings, an afternoon tea, a beer-tasting, and tea-dueling.  I have never been able to go to any of these, so I really can't report on them.  But everyone RAVES about the wine tasting (and I don't think it's just because they come out drunk.)  And I know people had fun at the tea dueling.  The tastings and tea cost extra and tickets for them must be bought in advance.

The one downside of Steampunk November is that the location isn't very convenient or easy to get to.  That's hardly unique for Renaissance events, but I think it's probably the reason the festival hasn't gotten more popular.  It's a significant drive from Dallas, but ok for a day trip.  There is camping available, but in November it's a little cool for a lot of people (i.e. me.).

But I would really encourage people to make the effort and plan to attend, whether that means camping out for the whole weekend, driving from Dallas, or getting a hotel room nearby.  It's absolutely worth it for a relaxed, enchanting, fun atmosphere with great people.

ETA: I forgot to say hi to those readers of this blog who said hi at the event!  Thanks so much for stopping to talk and I was so glad you turned up!

No comments:

Post a Comment