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Get Ready for Hannibal: Big River Festival Announces 2021 Program

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Organizers of the Big River Steampunk Festival have posted the schedule for this year’s gathering, which returns to Hannibal, Missouri over Labor Day weekend with new ownership and some changes from past events.

As before, visitors can expect a varied program with a steampunk parade, live entertainment, costume contests, workshops, seminars, vendors, tea dueling, nerf dueling, airship racing, teapot racing, and more.

Most of the festival is free, but the program includes some premium ticketed events as well as make-and-take crafting workshops where you pay for the materials you use.

The festival occupies the historic downtown of Hannibal, best known as the boyhood home of Mark Twain. It’s one of the largest steampunk gatherings in the U.S., with estimates of past attendance ranging from 10,000 to more than 20,000. The 2020 event was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tammy Riley, a local restauranteur, assumed ownership of the festival last fall after co-founders Ken and Lisa Marks moved to Delaware.

Steampunk Beards
Photo: Curt Knapp

Program Highlights

New features this year include Dieselpunk and Wasteland areas plus a section for kids. The Wasteland section will have a post-apocalyptic theme inspired by the Mad Max movies.

The entertainment lineup will feature some familiar acts, including the old-time sounds of The Ragged Blade Band and the pirate comedy of Little Beard and The Scallywags. However, some entertainers who have appeared regularly at past festivals, most notably Doc Phineas, will not be taking the stage.

Jim Dewey and Steampunk Pete will serve as this year’s MCs. Lady Lyric d’Avalon, The Time-Traveling Trouvère, will make her first appearance at the festival with a mix of free and ticketed performances. Dean Carnegie, The Steampunk Illusionist, will also make his Big River debut.

One major highlight each year is the festival parade, which begins Saturday at 10 a.m., proceeding down North Main from Center Street to the Steampunk Stage.

The schedule lists numerous make-and-take workshops, including sessions on how to make a mini top hat, steampunk dragon, steampunk treasure box, headband fascinators, leather key chains, and more. Fees, which cover the cost of materials, range from $10 to $30.

The Steampunk Pope

RJ Lundgren, aka Steampunk Pope, Brother Barnabas Brass-Boilerplate, will preside over wedding vow renewals on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. He’ll also present a church service on Sunday morning and a benediction on Monday, just prior to festival teardown.

Leader of the Mystical Order of the AEthernaught Brotherhood (M.O.A.B.), he’s been appearing in this guise at cosplay events for the past seven years. Brother Barnabas says he’s an ordained minister, but wedding vow renewals are not legally binding and anyone can officiate.

Steampunk Pope
Steampunk Pope, Brother Barnabas Brass-Boilerplate. Photo: Curt Knapp.

The wedding vow ceremonies will take place on the Steampunk Stage and attendance is free. However, couples hoping to have their vows renewed will have to pay $20 in advance. Proceeds will help cover festival expenses.

Premium Happenings

As before, the program includes a series of ticketed events. Among them:

• A Saturday lunch cruise aboard the Mark Twain Riverboat, with music by the Midnight Wanderers;

• A Saturday evening aerial circus performance by Voler – Thieves of Flight;

• A Saturday night Steampunk Ball aboard the riverboat with music by Lady Lyric;

• Low Tea, High Tea, and Afternoon Tea, all on Sunday;

• A Sunday evening fashion show, variety show, and dinner at The Star Theater with music by the Midnight Wanderers and a circus performance by Mariel a la Mode.

The organizers will also host a $20 pub crawl on Friday night. Participants will receive a Big River Steampunk shot glass and six drink tickets. Each stop will include a contest and prize.

Tickets for premium events must be purchased in advance. Online sales end on Aug. 15.

Vendors Still Wanted

Riley says that about 10 spaces are still available for vendors. Booths cost $350, which includes a city business license. Vendor applications can be downloaded from the home page.

The festival opens Friday, Sept. 3, and runs through mid-day on Monday, Sept. 6. Booths will be open until 10 p.m. on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

As in past years, that’s the same weekend as Dragon Con, the huge multi-genre fan convention in Atlanta. But Burning Man, which also happens around Labor Day weekend, has been cancelled this year.

Learn more about the Big River Steampunk Festival on the website and Facebook page.

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