Hannibal News

Wet weather fails to put a damper on Hannibal's Steampunk Spring Faire

A festival goer in costume peruses through items at a sale booth at the Big River Steampunk Spring Faire at the Mark Twain Brewery in Hannibal, Mo., on Saturday, Mar. 30, 2019. The Spring Faire gave people who normally can't make it the big Labor Day Steampunk Festival the chance to participate indoors. | H-W Photo/Katelyn Metzger
Katelyn Metzger 1|
By Herald-Whig
Posted: Mar. 30, 2019 8:20 pm Updated: Mar. 30, 2019 9:34 pm

HANNIBAL, Mo. -- Marsha Goldberg had a bit of a problem Saturday afternoon.

She just drove in from Columbia to attend the Big River Steampunk Spring Faire, and the rain was splattering outside as she stepped up to the registration table inside the Mark Twain Brewing Co.

Goldberg had brought along all the elements of her elaborate Steampunk costume, but the rain was causing her some grief.

"I can't take my feathers out of the car," she said.

This was understandable, after all, because "they're antique feathers," she explained.

"This rain is really forcing me to change some of my attire," Goldberg said. "I did have a nice, red, wool cloak that I was going to wear, but now I have a silly looking rain jacket."

Goldberg wasn't dissuaded. Despite the dreary weather, she quickly joined the fun inside the warm confines of the brewery, which was packed with steampunk aficionados who had come to experience the Hannibal's first springtime steampunk festival, which continues through Sunday.

Lisa Marks, who organizes the steampunk festival with her husband, Ken, as a fundraiser for the Hannibal History Museum, said recent flooding on the Mississippi River forced the organizers to relocate the event from its original venue at the Admiral Coontz Recreation Center to the Mark Twain Brewery.

However, this change in plans -- and the incessant rains on Saturday -- didn't dampen the enthusiasm for the Spring Faire, which still offered a series of daytime and night-time activities for about 500 Steampunk enthusiasts eager to strut their gadgetized costumes amid the 1800s Victorian architecture of Mark Twain's boyhood hometown.

"Because of the kindness and understanding and generosity of our vendors and our entertainers and our guests, we are having a wonderful time," Marks said.

Marks said the decision to host a spring steampunk event sprang from feedback that many people couldn't attend the fall festival because they go out of town on Labor Day weekends.

The Spring Faire was intended to be a smaller, more intimate gathering -- in contrast to the fall event, which fills the streets of Hannibal with about 15,000 people over four days.

"This gives the attendees the chance to meet others, meet the entertainers and really hobnob," she said. "It's just a much more interactive, whole-immersion experience."

Steampunk, which combines elements of the Gilded Age with a science fiction twist, appeals to many people, Marks said.

"It covers everything -- art, science, fashion, technology, science fiction, fantasy, writing -- and every demographic," she said. "You'll see grandmas and little kids and men and women. It's a chance for everybody to enjoy the childlike nature of playing dress-up with like-minded individuals."

On hand for Saturday's festivities was Pete Hutchinson of Peoria, Ill., who comes to Hannibal's fall steampunk festivals and didn't want to miss the first spring event.

"They just do it really well here," he said. "I love Hannibal. It may be the quintessential place for steampunk. It's just a great weekend, and the culture is so friendly."

Hutchinson came to the event wearing a Wild West-themed Steampunk costume featuring a derby hat adorned with goggles and a dark suit with lots of accessories, including two fake guns carried in holsters.

Hutchinson said he's attracted to steampunk by the chance to get dressed up and have fun role-playing with others.

"I think it's the fantasy world and the costumes," he said. "You can express yourself. There's no rules. There's no wrong way of doing things."

Jackee Smithhart of St. Louis, who won Saturday's costume contest, was attired in a lacy Victorian-themed outfit adorned with a bustled skirt and corset along with a belt containing holsters for her teacup, fan, bottle of "poison" and fake dueling pistol.

She's been coming to steampunk events for about five years and loves it.

"It's so much fun," she said. "I love to dress up, and I just love the atmosphere. Everybody comes together, and we all have this similar hobby and passion."

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