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Robotic Rodeo Set to Debut

This new steampunk gathering in Durham, N.C., aka “Bull City,” will have a Weird West flavor

Sunday, January 20, 2019
Steampunks with Major the Bull

The organizer of the Festival of Legends is taking a big step into steampunk — with a Weird West flavor — as The Bull City Robotic Rodeo debuts Feb. 1-3 at the Durham Convention Center in Durham, North Carolina. It’s the latest effort from Jeffrey Kass and his company, Glitter-Free Productions.

“I have always loved the romanticized fiction of the white-hatted gunslinger, but I am well aware that this fantasy is just that,” he writes in a letter that will be printed in the program. “My hope for this weekend is for everyone to have an amazing time while still acknowledging the harsh realities of yesteryear.”

In addition to panels, music, cosplay, and other standard convention fare, the Robotic Rodeo will include mechanical bull rides, bull whip workshops, an escape room, a Square Dance Hootenanny, a “High Noon Lazer Tag Shoot-Out,” and a Weird West Film Festival.

Steampunk Woman with Ray Gun

Panels will include discussions of Joss Whedon’s Firefly as well as cultural and gender diversity in the Wild West. Attendees will also have a chance to learn about saloon mixology, maker techniques, and storytelling in comics, books, and movies.

A few activities are adults-only (18+), including the Boomstick Burlesque Revue on Saturday night and two panels on Friday night: “Conversations with a Saloon Girl” (a “presentation of dirty jokes and proverbial anecdotes”) and “Fit to be Tied” (an “intro to…rope play and technique…and no, not lariats and lassos”).

Other notable happenings include a cosplay fashion show, a Saturday night concert by Celtic rock band Wakefire, and a charity auction to benefit the North Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence. The convention will also have a vendor area and gaming room.

Special guests and presenters include folksinger Jon Sundell; makers Brett King and Wheeler Stone; and authors Margaret S. McGraw, Tonia Brown, and Emily Leverett.

A detailed program, guest bios and a vendor list can be found on the website.

The Robotic Rodeo was to include a Rube Goldberg Machine contest featuring entries by kids ages 11-18. However, Kass says it had to be canceled. The contests are administered by Rube Goldberg Inc., and “we were unable to meet the national organization’s required team minimum,” he explains. However, “one team is still planning on coming to exhibit their contraption anyway.”

Ticket Prices

Basic weekend passes cost $65 through the end of January. The $120 VIP pass includes a Saturday morning breakfast, a private lounge, a Murder Mystery Dinner, fast-track access to the escape room, and preferred seating for Saturday night’s Boomstick Burlesque Revue. Non-VIPs can purchase a Murder Mystery Dinner add-on for $60. Day passes are available for $35 (Friday), $40 (Saturday) and $25 (Sunday).

Attendees can also register for “Myth Quest Light,” described as “a team-based non-contact fantasy steampunk live action role playing game.” It costs $15 per person in addition to a Robotic Rodeo pass. Sessions are scheduled throughout the weekend. You can learn more about the game in this YouTube video and on the game’s Facebook page.

Festival of Legends

Glitter-Free Productions is also preparing for the eighth annual Festival of Legends, set for April 13-14 at the Optimist Farm in Apex, North Carolina. The producer describes it as a “Fairy Festival,” as distinct from a Renaissance faire. “Renaissance faires generally focus on real-world historical accuracy and education, while we celebrate mythology, folklore, and fairytales (with a dose of current, popular fiction) and bring joy by presenting an eclectic blend of artistry, music, dance, fantasy costuming, and play,” the FAQ states.

This year’s event will have a “Tricksters” theme. Musical guests include Wakefire and Frenchy and the Punk. Again, you can find more info on the website.

Photos by Paul Cory Photography. They are used by permission of Glitter-Free Productions.

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