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Steampunk Frolic Near Detroit

Michigan Steam Expo and Greenfield Village make for a fun-filled holiday weekend

Thursday, May 16, 2019
Michigan Steam Expo

From left: Don Watts, aka The Mayor; panelists Baba Teddy and Lady Kate; Sue Peel, aka The Banker. Watts and Peel are part of the expo’s organizing committee.

Steampunk enthusiasts in the Detroit area will get a double dose of merriment over Memorial Day weekend as the first-ever Michigan Steam Expo takes place on Sunday, May 26, followed by a Monday excursion to Greenfield Village, the sprawling open-air museum founded by Henry Ford.

Michigan Steam Expo is an all-volunteer effort that will include panels, vendors, Victorian teas, a fashion show, and an evening concert headlined by Wakefire. The festivities begin at 10 a.m. at the Auburn Hills Marriott Pontiac.

“We are really hoping to put on an event for the community where everyone is welcomed and feels inspired to open their mind, imagination, and together make steampunk come alive,” says Guy Cox, aka The Professor, one of the six volunteers who organized the event.

“One of our sayings in the Michigan steampunk community is ‘if it isn’t fun, it isn’t steampunk,’” he adds. “So above all we want everyone to have a good time.”

Program highlights

The panels will cover topics related to costuming, prop-making, 19th century history, steampunk media, and steampunk literature. One, “Thrifted Steampunk Costume Re-makes,” will look at ways to turn thrift store finds into steampunk outfits. Meg Raphoon, aka The Captain, will present the “History of Alchemy.” Aloysius Fox, founder of the International Steampunk Symposium and Chicago Steampunk Exposition, will explore “the radical ideas and lifestyle choices of H.G. Wells and how they make him more Punk than Steam.”

Baba Teddy and Lady Kate Henriott are slated for two presentations. At 4 p.m., they’ll discuss haunted locations near the hotel and Michigan’s role in the Underground Railroad. At 7 p.m., they’ll present “Absinthe, Alewives, and Alchemy,” with tales of witchcraft, hidden history, and Mère Henriod, who is credited (at least in some accounts) as being one of the originators of absinthe. Lady Kate claims Mère Henriod as an ancestor. The latter presentation includes an absinthe tasting and is for folks 21+.

The fashion show is open to costumes that are home-made or purchased. You’ll have to register by Saturday, May 25 to participate. It’s not a contest and there are no judges.


Wakefire is a Detroit-area band that describes its music as a mix of “Celtic rock, baroque pop, Slavic punk, folk rock, and Americana.” Opening for Wakefire will be Tribal Spice Bellydance. After the concert, DJ Dr. Toon will take the stage for a dance party that runs until 2 a.m.

The full schedule is on the website.

Tickets to the event cost $45. Pre-registration closed April 30, so if you haven’t done so already, you’ll have to purchase tickets at the door. The hotel is located at 3600 Centerpoint Parkway, Pontiac, MI 48341.

Greenfield Village

This 240-acre living history museum is part of The Henry Ford in Dearborn. It’s home to many historic buildings moved from their original locations, including a courthouse where Abraham Lincoln practiced law, the garage where Henry Ford built his first vehicle, and the Wright Brothers’ home and bicycle shop. It also contains a replica of Thomas Edison’s Menlo Park laboratory complex.

Visitors can travel around the village in Model T cars, horse-drawn carriages, or a steam-powered train.

“The steampunk community in Detroit goes there three or four times a year,” Cox says, “and Greenfield Village loves us being there.” Most attend in steampunk garb, but it’s not required. One likely activity is a group photo in front of the train roundhouse.

“If anyone wants to go, all they need to do is show up and buy a ticket to the Village,” he says. Tickets cost $28, with discounts available for kids and seniors.

Greenfield Village

Photo: Gary Malerba/The Henry Ford

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