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Mad Scientists to Converge on Waltham

Wacky contraptions and Prof. Elemental are highlights at the Watch City Steampunk Festival

Monday, April 29, 2019
Watch City Steampunk Festival 2018

Photos from the 2018 Watch City Steampunk Festival by Babs Who Takes Pictures.

“Mad Science” will be the theme as the Watch City Steampunk Festival returns to Waltham, Massachusetts on Saturday, May 11, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Embodying the theme will be an exhibition of steampunk-inspired contraptions and kinetic sculptures. The festival will also feature two stages of live entertainment, along with educational presentations, theatrical performances, role-playing games, kids’ activities, vendors, a beer garden and more. Attendance is free.

Past editions have drawn as many as 10,000 visitors, making it one of the largest steampunk events in the U.S. Most activities are held in Waltham Common, in the city’s downtown area. The city is about 10 miles west of Boston.

UK chap hop artist Professor Elemental will headline a musical line-up that also includes Frenchy and the Punk, Acoustic Busted Jug Band, In Good Company, Queen Mercy, Kate Eppers, The Shank Painters, and Walter Sickert &The ARmy of BRoken Toys.

The Professor will appear at a small Friday night event that’s already sold out, but he’ll also take the main Gazebo Stage for a free closing performance around 4 p.m. on Saturday.

In addition, he’ll be one of the judges for the “Mad Science” exhibition, featuring “perpetual motion engines, Useless Machines (a la Theo Jansen or Rube Goldberg), garage-built automata,” and other contraptions that “arrest the eye and tickle the brain.” Organizers solicited entries for the exhibition last fall. Judges will choose first, second, and third place awards. Attendees will be able to vote for a People’s Choice Award.

The trophies, made by Isaiah Plovnick, are shown below (photo by Jayson Gleneck).

Watch City Steampunk Festival 2018

Indoor Activities

The festival is mostly an outdoor event, but some activities will be held at the Waltham Public Library and other indoor facilities near the Common. The library will be the primary venue for educational presentations, including:

• “Steampunk Art & Design: The Philosophy, Process and Pictures,” led by steampunk designer Bruce Rosenbaum (see our recent story, “A Visit with the Steampunk Guru”);

• “Bizarre Victorian Inventions,” by Prof. Mark P. Donnelly;

• “Steampunk Writer’s Roundtable,” featuring Professor Cognome and Jessica Lucci;

• “Steampunk 101,” an introductory panel by Citizens of Antiford.

In addition, Metro Boston Organized Play will host roleplaying games at the library. Just outside the library, Athena School of Arms will demonstrate historic European Martial Arts, and the Salem Light Infantry will present Zouave dress and drill.

The Waltham Museum will host a series of museum tours highlighting local history, including the city’s role as a watch manufacturing center in the 19th century. Another local attraction, The Telephone Museum, will offer free admission all day.

History buffs will also want to check out the Ashton Valve Gauges table, which will be open all day on Waltham Common. Rick Ashton will show a collection of vintage steam gauges made by Ashton Valve Co., a manufacturer founded by his great-great-grandfather. As he wrote in a recent article for us, the gauges are popular components in steampunk art.

The full schedule is posted here.

Mrs. Hawking Performances

The First Parish Church will be the venue for two free performances of steampunk plays in the ”Mrs. Hawking” series. The plays, written by Phoebe Roberts and Bernie Gabin, feature Victoria Cornelia Stanton Hawking, a Victorian-era detective who shares characteristics of Sherlock Holmes and a “lady Batman.”

Gilded Cages, scheduled for 2 p.m., promises to reveal “the truth behind Mrs. H’s discovery of her calling.” Mrs. Frost is about Mrs. Hawking’s battle against her greatest enemy. It’s slated for 6 p.m., after the main festivities have ended. The church is located at 50 Church Street in Waltham. See the Facebook event page for more info.

After Hours

After the festival closes, Game Underground will welcome attendees for games, snacks and socializing. The arcade features pinball, skeeball, and video games, or you can bring your own board games. Entry is free, but you’ll need to purchase tokens to play the arcade games. Guests can bring take-out food from area restaurants.

Volunteers Needed

The Watch City Steampunk Festival is held rain or shine. The weather last year was cold and rainy, “the worst we’ve had,” says lead organizer Melissa Honig. “But people had a good time and the vendors did well.”

The event is run by volunteers, and once again she’s asking for volunteer assistance on the day of the event. See the website for details.


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