What is Steampunk?

Hannibalians will soon be learning the meaning of this word, when they attend the local Big River Steampunk Festival on Memorial Day weekend, Aug. 30 and 31.

What is Steampunk? Hannibalians will soon be learning the meaning of this word, when they attend the local Big River Steampunk Festival on Memorial Day weekend, Aug. 30 and 31.

It will be from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days, with events at various times, including a “cosplay” (costume play), treasure hunt, Great Midway vendors, talent show and hot  air balloon rides on Saturday. Sunday’s events include a historic home tour.

It will include a Steampunk Art Competition sponsored by the Hannibal Arts Council. The entry deadline is Friday, Aug. 15. It will include drawings, sculpture, oil paintings, pottery, woodcarving, fiber arts, photographs, articles of clothing, jewelry, and other original works of art (original in concept, design and production). The contest is open to professional and non-professional artists, age 18 and over.

The local Steampunk festival will be sponsored by the Hannibal History Museum at 200 N. Main St.

Lisa and Ken Marks, owners of the Hannibal History Museum, described Steampunk.

“Steampunk is a celebration of history,” Lisa said,

which would be enjoyed by “people who love the Victorian era and love science and technology and the romance of the Industrial Revolution.”

Steampunk has been described as “Victorian science fiction.”

Ken and Lisa explained why they believe Hannibal is the perfect spot to host this event.

Lisa said Steampunk “takes the elements of all the different eras, the Wild, Wild West, Gilded Age and Industrial Revolution” and “imagines what it would be like to have our modern technology transplanted back in that era.”

Hannibal is a good location for a Steampunk Festival, Lisa said, because, “Hannibal is the epitome of the Gilded Age. During the steam engine era, we had steam engines driving trains and boats and sawmills. Even the shoe factories - when they first started - were steam-powered. So Hannibal is perfect.”

Ken agreed, explaining that, “Hannibal was such an industrial center in Missouri for so many decades that the idea of seeing these inventions coming to fruition with what happened in Hannibal” makes “Steampunk and Hannibal naturals for each other.

“It just puts it in a package that is accessible for everyone to see today,” Ken continued, “especially since we’ve lost so many of those old industries.”

“We always wanted to host a festival that says what Hannibal is,” Ken said. “Mark Twain made us popular, but this is what made us rich. That type of determination is what we were known for in the 1800s and 1900s, and that type of approach would be helpful for us today.”

Steampunk is also a colorful way to learn history. “We are trying to make history fun,” Ken said, “like getting your kids to eat peas by putting sugar on them.”

The main events will be at the Great Midway, in the parking lot at Bird and Main streets.  Main Street will remain open, Lisa Marks noted, with the events and vendors in the midway. 

The “cosplay” will be performed by professional actors from elsewhere along with local residents. It will have singers, comedians, jugglers and melodrama.

There will be a costume contest, including the public, at noon Aug. 30 at the Great Midway.

Another event will be an afternoon tea with Queen Victoria at the Dubach Inn. This will be at 2 p.m. Aug. 30, and will have a special appearance by Queen Victoria, aka local actress Kirsten Dewey.

A Vaudeville Review will begin at 5:30 p.m. Aug. 30 inside Finn’s (formerly Kerley’s) at 214 N. Main St.

The Aug. 31 events will include a historic homes tour at noon. The map of homes will be available at the Hannibal History Museum.

At 2 p.m. Aug. 31, a croquet tournament will begin at Cliffside Mansion at Hill and Bird streets.

Professionals coming to perform in the festival include magician Dr. Robere DeGraf of Naples, Fla.

Local performers will include Clark Cruikshank, Jim Dewey, Sean Major (doing a medicine show), and Gary Fowler as Teddy Roosevelt.

Lisa Marks will portray Sophie Tucker, and Sam Walker will play her bagpipes. Walker’s mother, Rosanna Roy, will portray Nellie Bly, a famous newspaper reporter who gained fame by traveling around the world in 72 days.

Lisa Marks connected Mark Twain with Steampunk. “Mark Twain was a Steampunker, without the name,” she said. “When he wrote ‘A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court,’ he was taking technology of the late 1800s and imagining how people in Europe would have responded had they had the technology in that era.”

For more details see www.BigRiverSteampunkFestival.com.