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Cassville Steampunk Festival Captures People's Imaginations

Posted: Saturday, May 24, 2014 6:49 pm


CASSVILLE, Wis. — A performer holds her banjo inside a gazebo and sings, “I’m Miss Patti. I’m traveling through time and I never quite know where I am.”

 It was certainly a mix of times this afternoon at the Stonefield Wild West Steampunk Festival, an event celebrating the movement that mixes the Wild West, the Victorian era and steam-driven technology. Visitors walked through the old western historical site in Cassville wearing corsets, top hats and goggles decorated with gears, levers and loose odds and ends. A card game in the local saloon is interrupted by a staged gunfight, a continuing storyline throughout the festival weekend reenacting encounters of O.K. Corral.

 Allen Schroeder, director of Stonefield, said the eclectic event was planned to bring new visitors to the site.

 “This brings in a whole new audience,” Schroeder said. “There’s a lot of younger folks who have probably never been here.”

 The festival is projected to bring around 500 visitors to the site. The site has never before embraced a Steampunk theme, but Schroeder said the success of this year’s event will probably fuel an annual Steampunk festival.

 Malissa and Viktor Petterson, 27 and 26, drove from Madison to attend the festival. The couple has embraced Steampunk into their daily lives. Malissa Petterson wrote a Steampunk musical that’s opening in October in Madison and the two even had a Steampunk-themed wedding.

 “We were debating if I wanted to wear my wedding dress, but it’s so big,” Malissa Petterson said.

 Saturday's costume, a captive on her husband’s airship, was made using items, such as keys, from their wedding, items purchased at thrift stores and “the industrious use of safety pins.” She was first introduced to the Steampunk aesthetic through a friend who sent an email with Steampunk images.

“From there I fell down the Internet rabbit hole,” Malissa Petterson said. “I love the visual. It leaves a lot of room for people to really exercise their own creativity. No two Steampunk costumes are ever alike.”

 Viktor Petterson was dressed as an airship pirate. He only has one costume, but said it’s easy to create more.

“You have a whole stable of bits and bobs to knit together to make all matter of costumes,” Viktor Petterson said. “There’s definitely a visual art into putting together a costume. It’s interesting to see what people come up with.”

Victorian and western-themed vendors sold their goods from old western storefronts and tents. Jeremy Ultsch, an owner of the Artifixer, a company selling Steampunk-themed items with a focus on corsets, was drawn into Steampunk because the genre has a basis in both history and science fiction.

 “The costuming is amazing,” Ultsch said. “You never know who you’re talking to, it brings such a gambit.”

 Eric Jon Larson, founder of TeslaCon, an annual Steampunk convention in Madison, wandered Stonefield in character as Lord Hastings Robert Bobbins, his Steampunk alter ego. Larson said Steampunk conventions allow for a variety of costumes and personalities because the genre spans across multiple time frames.

 “You can create everything yourself,” Larson said. “It’s fun and you don’t have to follow anyone’s regulations.”

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