- City Guides
Steampunk Fest Returns to Hannibal
The city long associated with Mark Twain is set to host another Big River Steampunk Festival
Sunday, August 18, 2019
Once again, steampunks will take to the streets of Samuel Clemens’ boyhood home as the Big River Steampunk Festival returns to Hannibal, Missouri over Labor Day weekend, Aug. 30-Sept 2. One of the largest steampunk events in the U.S., it will feature live music, riverboat cruises, workshops, contests, gaming, tea dueling, parasol dueling, and lots more. Special guests include TV personality Doc Phineas along with makers Thomas Willeford and James Neathery.
This will be the sixth year for the event, which was conceived by Ken and Lisa Marks of the Hannibal History Museum. As before, it will offer a mix of free activities and ticketed premium events. General admission is free.
The city is about 100 miles north of St. Louis. Clemens, known to the world as Mark Twain, lived there until he was 18, and the city is home to many historical sites associated with the author. St. Petersburg, the fictional setting for The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, was inspired by Hannibal.
The festival will formally kick off on Saturday, Aug. 31 with opening ceremonies and a parade down Hannibal’s Main Street, which will be closed to automobiles. However, vendors will be set up on Friday from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., and the organizers will host a ticketed “Meet & Greet” party Friday night at Sawyer’s Creek, about 1.5 miles south of downtown Hannibal.
The Main Street Stage will be the focal point for free entertainment. Vendors will occupy The Great Midway along North Main and Hill Streets. The Airship Village at Bird and Main Street will allow steampunk groups to set up spaces and interact with attendees.
Doc Phineas will serve as master of ceremonies. He'll also be leading the parade and doing panels on archaeology, fandom, and the paranormal. Willeford and Neathery, well known makers in the steampunk world, will offer presentations about steampunk design.
Other scheduled guests include Children of Proteus, a group of cosplayers who portray characters from their own comic book series. Author Michael Schulkins, flying in from Silicon Valley, will present his new book series, Mark Twain on the Moon. Nashville-based author Dana Fraedrich will discuss her steampunk fantasy series, Broken Gears. Jorg Rochlitzer and D.C. Rambow will offer demonstrations of tintype and wet glass plate photography from the 19th century. Clay Hielscher of Aksarben Industries in Lawrence, Kansas, will discuss the art of building costumes and props. He’ll be joined by daughter Kyrianna.
Attendees can take part in costume contests, a facial hair competition, a photography contest, and a Tinkerer’s Tournament. Some contests will offer cash prizes in the form of “Big River Fun Money,” which can be redeemed at merchant booths, or at the festival information booth in exchange for tickets or festival merchandise.
Costume contests will be held on Saturday and Sunday, each with 12 finalists and a Best in Show winner. Participants must register the morning of the contest.
The Tinkerer’s Tournament on Saturday and Sunday will challenge makers to build a gadget in real time, using parts and tools supplied by the festival. Contestants will have a half hour to complete their projects.
The Facial Hair Contest is scheduled for Sunday. A contestant from 2018 is shown above.
Judges in the photography contest will select three finalists on each of three days — Saturday, Sunday, and Monday — and choose one Best of Show winner who will receive two all-access tickets to the 2020 festival.
See the website for contest details.
New this year is the Twilight Elemental Circus on Sunday night, featuring the acrobatics of Voler - Thieves of Flight from Kansas City.
On Saturday night, Sweetie & The Toothaches will perform at The Crimson Ball & Fashion Show, which will also be a showcase for the festival’s costume makers. Based in St. Louis, the band describes its sound as Hot Jump Blues.
Following the ball will be a Scoundrels and Shysters riverboat cruise with comedy by Thomas Bedlam and music by the Ragged Blade Band. The band describes its music as “kind of ‘old-old school,” drawing on blues, jazz and ragtime. They will also perform on Sunday night’s Van Helsing Riverboat Cruise.
Other ticketed events include teas, burlesque performances, the comedy of Jeckyl & Hijinks, and mentalist performances by Dr. Judas Lynch & Magnolia Strange.
Tickets for the premium events range from $10 to $28. You can purchase a $150 VIP Pass for access to most premium events.
Again, details are available on the website.
This story was updated to reflect activities on Friday.
Photos from the 2018 costume and facial hair contests by Curt Knapp (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) via Flickr. See his Flickr page for more photos from past festivals.
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