HANNIBAL – With cooler than normal weather and many new events, Hannibal's sixth annual Big River Steampunk Festival attracted huge crowds from across the country from Saturday to Monday, after an opening event for the professional performers on Friday night.
It would be difficult to say whether the performers or their audience were enjoying it more, as crowds gathered to watch a magician, escape artist, musicians and comedians perform.
Steampunk has been described as Victorian science fiction, and many people attending created time travel costumes.
Some, like Sunday's second place costume contest winner, Glanmama (Debby Geary of De Soto), add to their costumes each year. She explained her wheelchair is run by a time machine, and this year she added alcohol to power it. "By next year it will fly," she said. Geary said at age 70 she is coping with COPD, and she has decided, "I will make the last days of my life the best days."
A time traveling fairy named Penelope Sprocket (Jillian Griffin of Kansas City) won first place in the adult's costume contest on Sunday. She made her entire costume except her corset, and has previously participated in a renaissance festival in Kansas City.
The children's contest Sunday was won by an airship pirate princess (Charlotte Stratton, 6. of Quincy, Ill.) Her brother, Samuel, competed as Marsh Mellow in a white costume. Their parents are Aaron and Kellie Stratton. Charlotte enjoys costumes and has celebrated Halloween as a bull fighter and as a little old lady.
On Saturday the costume contest was won by a military officer, Major Oberon (Tim).
Second place went to Ravenclaw, and the children's prize was won by a Jetpack family.
A $100 prize donated by Mississippi Marketplace was presented to each adult first place winner.
The hair contest on Sunday was won by Jason Wharton.
While most steampunk performers were from elsewhere, two Hannibal music students were attracting attention. On Saturday Austin Kohlhep was playing "Fly Me to the Moon" on his saxophone, which inspired a couple to dance in the street. As Ken and Robin Knepler of Moberly danced cheek-to-cheek, he said, "we have only been married for 31 years."
On Sunday eighth grader Josiah Campbell was playing "The Tennessee Waltz" on his violin. He is a member of the Hannibal String Orchestra.
During the festival children were invited on stage to assist the performers, such as a magician, who was joined by Kalyn Dowell.
Children and adults were invited to play steampunk games at Java Jive, with the game booth on the street selling the games. The sellers reported a card game, Thief's Hoard, was their best seller. The games will continue to be sold at Java Jive and on the website brassengine.net.
Steampunk performers meeting individuals included a Steampunk Pope (R.J. Lundgren of Des Moines, Iowa), accompanied by Sister Steam (Molly Ketchum) at his second local festival.
Hannibalians were among the people enjoying festival foods on Saturday, including Cory and Cailee Combs. She had enjoyed the escape artist, and he was glad to hear the bluegrass band from Lincoln, Neb.
Local people also were among the vendors, such as Guy East, who offered several tables of items from his booth at Puddenhead's, including handmade steampunk rifles.
Among the people enjoying the festival were Lori Toole of Lexington, Ky., and Ginna Stanko of Cincinnati, Ohio. Former college roommates who live in different states, they get together for steampunk festivals. They had ordered advance tickets to both festival teas and both steampunk cruises on the Mark Twain Riverboat.
Toole said Hannibal is among her favorite places: "We love the people in Hannibal. People are so open and welcoming. And we enjoy seeing all the old buildings."
Jim Dewey was among local volunteers helping Ken and Lisa Marks of the Hannibal History Museum lead the festival. As the festival was ending Monday afternoon, Dewey was grateful that "the weather has been terrific and the crowds have been good." He said this year "we had captains of areas." His wife, Kirsten, was in charge of the "make and take" areas, and he was captain of the seminars.
The seminars included the Genesis of Children of Proteus, which Dewey said "was a description of where that came from. … The stories of characters and comics about sea creatures that come alive."
Dewey said this year he did not have a title, except as consort and "eye candy" for his wife in her usual role as Queen Victoria. She was among leaders of the opening ceremonies and other official events.
See photo galley for more steampunk pictures.