Steampunks to Invade St. Augustine
A steampunk shop in the historic Florida city will host a self-guided “festival without a festival”
St. Augustine has survived invasions by pirates and British soldiers, but next weekend, the Florida city will see invaders of a different sort as steampunks come in search of entertainment, photo ops, and deals on merchandise.
The St. Augustine Steampunk Invasion is hosted by Aunt Matilda’s Steampunk Trunk, a local brick-and-mortar retail shop that opened in 2016. The invasion takes place Nov. 9-11 at various locations in the city.
“It’s a festival without a festival,” explains the proprietor, known appropriately enough as Aunt Matilda. Or it could be described as a “build your own festival.”
Here’s how it works: Visitors will stop at the store to receive an itinerary with suggested activities. They’ll also get discount coupons for local attractions, mostly restaurants. The discounts apply if the patrons are wearing steampunk outfits. The invasion has scheduled events, but it’s all optional and visitors are free to explore the town, which is a major tourist destination.
One highlight is a photo op scavenger hunt, in which visitors in steampunk garb pose for pictures next to historic landmarks around town. Photos will be uploaded to Facebook and Instagram. Three prizes will be awarded in the form of gift cards: One for most “likes,” one selected by Matilda, and one selected by random drawing.
Scheduled events include:
• Performances on Nov. 9 and 10 by the Haunted Flying Circus and Medicine Show, described as “time traveling performers from different cultures and periods of history, a motley mix of ghosts, immortals and mythical magic creatures. . . We use Movement, music and a wee bit o backstory to tell our tales.” They’ll be at the Willie Galimore Recreation Center, 399 Riberia Street.
• A gathering on Saturday at the Secret Garden Of ShiSha, a hookah lounge.
• A ticketed Dieselpunk Brunch on Sunday, Nov. 11. She describes it as a “private party” inside the store, which will be closed to the public. Attendees will receive a wine glass they’ll use to toast veterans. They’ll also get a 15 percent discount on items in the store. Winners of the scavenger hunt will be announced. The Dieselpunk theme is tied to the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.
Tickets for the brunch cost $15.99 apiece, or $30 for two. Matilda cautions that seating is limited. See this event page for details.
Matilda says there will be additional activities that are not currently listed.
Visitors will have to arrange for their own lodging and meals.
This is the second year for the event. The 2017 invasion was coordinated by steampunk societies in Florida. This is the first year that she’s taken charge.
Aunt Matilda describes her inventory as “everything from jewelry to clothing to home décor.” And “I try to have different price points,” from relatively inexpensive items to handmade “designer things for the true steampunk enthusiast.” About 10 artists have items for sale in the store.
Founded in 1565 by a Spanish admiral, St. Augustine is the oldest continuously occupied European settlement in the continental U.S. Tourist attractions include two national monuments that are sites of old Spanish forts: Castillo de San Marcos and Fort Matanzas.
The city is also known for its spectacular Moorish Revival and Spanish Renaissance Revival buildings from the late 19th century. These include the former Hotel Alcazar and Ponce de Leon Hotel, both built by industrialist Henry Flagler. The Alcazar now houses St. Augustine City Hall and the Lightner Museum, which is known for its collection of 19th century fine and decorative art. The Ponce de Leon is now part of Flagler College. A stylized version is in the photo illustration above.
In 1668, the city was sacked by buccaneer Robert Searle, contributing to a local fascination with pirates. Each March, St. Augustine hosts a re-enactment of the battle, and it’s also home to a large pirate museum. Matilda credits this fascination for sparking interest in steampunk. “There’s a natural progression from pirates to steampunk,” she says.
St. Augustine has some unusual destinations, including Wolf’s Museum of Mystery, the Medieval Torture Museum, and the first Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum. Matilda also notes that numerous ghost tours operate in the city.
Many attractions are on or near St. George Street, a pedestrian-only thoroughfare lined with eateries and small retail shops. Aunt Matilda’s Steampunk Trunk is in the Shops of St. George’s Row, 106 St. George St., Suite B, near the corner of Hypolita in downtown St. Augustine. The city is about 40 miles south of Jacksonville.
For more tourist spots in the city, check out the photo gallery below.
Photos: Interior shot of Aunt Matilda’s Steampunk Trunk is used by her permission. The portrait of Aunt Matilda is by Nature’s Child Photography and used by her permission.
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