Hannibal News

Steampunk Festival draws costumed characters from across the nation

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Sep. 3, 2017 12:01 am Updated: Sep. 3, 2017 12:04 am

HANNIBAL, Mo. -- The streets of downtown Hannibal were crawling Saturday with an odd-looking assortment of characters straight out of the Gilded Age but with a science-fiction twist.

It was all part of the fourth annual Big River Steampunk Festival, a two-day extravaganza that draws steampunk enthusiasts from across the country eager to strut their gadgetized costumes amid the 1800s Victorian architecture of Mark Twain's boyhood hometown.

Scott Reid, a 41-year-old land surveyor from Sedalia, was among those stepping forward in full steampunk regalia.

He came attired as an airship pirate with gadgets, gears, clocks and other devices adorning every inch of his leather costume.

Reid said his personna reflected a pirate who dropped his gun during a battle and got shot.

"The ship's surgeon decided to make it so I would never drop my gun again," Reid said, showing off the four-foot-long machine gun that now takes the place of his left arm and shoulder.

"I am an airship assault trooper now," he said.

Reid's costume also is replete with goggles and a blinking leather face mask -- both designed to help him see and breathe in the imaginary coal-dust environment of an era when many machines ran by steam power. He also carries a mechanical "clockwork phoenix" on his right shoulder.

Reid said he enjoys dressing up as crazy characters.

"I've been doing costuming since 1993," he said. "I started doing Klingons with Star Trek and moved on to pirates." However, he got annoyed by purists who complained if one detail of his costume wasn't perfectly authentic.

Then he discovered steampunk -- a theatrical enterprise in which "you can do whatever you want," Reid said.

"You can take some history and punk it. That's what I love most about it," he said. "Nobody will judge you, because how can you do it wrong if you created the character?"

This weekend's steampunk festival, which continues Sunday, was drawing its largest crowd ever, according to Toni-Ann Serio, a volunteer helping the Hannibal History Museum, which sponsors the event.

Serio came to the festival dressed as Steampunk Medusa. She was wearing a headdress featuring all sorts of twisted hoses with little plastic snakes emerging from everywhere. She also wore snake earrings and an all-black outfit made primarily from a curtain that she patched together using a glue gun, duct tape and glitter.

She was having a ball.

"It's super fun, and it's a great way to be involved in the commuinty," Serio said.

"I know a lot of people think that steampunk is really weird when they look around and see everybody in costume, but the steampunk community is so great and the people are just so wonderful."

Greg Boner of Springfield, Ill., won the Steampunk Festival's beard contest in 2016 and decided to come back again this year. "But I had to up the ante," he said. So he arrived with an elaborate "tall bike" with four wheels and an elevated seat with handlebars seven feet off the ground. He rode the bike in Saturday's parade.

Boner said he discovered steampunk just over a year ago and decided to give it a try because "I have all this crap in my garage," and he knew he could use his artistic skill to fashion an elaborate costume with lots of cool antiques, including his grandfather's carbide lamp from his days as a coal miner. Boner attached the lamp to the front of his black top hat.

Among the activities Saturday were teapot racing, parasol dueling, ballroom dancing and a gadget-and-gizmo contest.

Rachel Zimmerman of Mount Sterling, Ill., competed in the afternoon's costume contest as a steampunk robot. Her face was covered in silver paint and her tutu/petticoat costume was adorned with gears, gadgets and musical symbols reflecting her love for music.

"I wanted to create something that was purely me and represented who I was as a person and a musician," she said.

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