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Steampunk festival in Waltham drew 2,500 per day

Posted by Your Town  May 8, 2011 06:43 PM

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The International Steampunk City Festival in Waltham this weekend drew a crowd of 2,500 people per day, despite gloomy weather on Saturday and Mother’s Day on Sunday.

The festival, which visualizes modern technology with Victorian era flair, raked in $30,000 from admissions fees. Twenty-five percent of that amount will be donated to renovating the Charles River Museum of Industry and Innovation after it suffered flood damage, said Stephanie Bassett, International Steampunk City event director.

“Everybody came together and worked very, very hard to make sure we had a festival,” Bassett said.

Eighty-five vendors, 25 performing acts and numerous artists set up in Waltham for the festival’s duration. Attractions included a steampunk exhibit in the Museum of Industry and Innovation, puppet shows, academic lectures, vendor displays, musical acts, a burlesque show, and dance performances.

“I think the music was one of our biggest attractions,” Bassett said, citing acts like Emperor Norton’s Stationary Marching Band and Catherine Joy as noteworthy crowd-pleasers.

Bassett said about one-third of attendees wore costumes, while the rest of the population consisting of families and residents came to explore the festival and check out the publicized museum.

“There were a lot of families who didn’t even know there was a museum in Waltham,” Bassett said. “The Charles River Museum of Industry and Innovation needs to be a legacy for our families. We need kids to see what we’ve done in the past and what they can do in the future.”

Bassett said most of the Waltham residents she spoke with responded positively to the festival, including an air of excitement among senior citizens enthusiastic to see the parade.

“I spoke to the police officers who were roaming on bikes, and they said everyone was polite and that there was no problem,” Bassett said. “We were very well received here in Waltham.”

Despite the subculture appeal surrounding the movement, the aesthetic may soon go mainstream. Christopher Osborne, a Cambridge resident displaying his antique lighting, sold four of his clock/lamp combination pieces for about $400 apiece in March to the J.Crew clothing line to use for Madewell store displays.

“They’re taking on a steampunk theme, and looking to see if there’s a positive response,” Osborne said.

Bruce Rosenbaum, whose company, ModVic, specializes in steampunk design, also sold steampunk pieces, like a wooden silk-spool workstation to be souped up with computer monitor, to J.Crew.

“The brand Madewell specializes in work wear and has a company in Bedford,” Rosenbaum said. “They decided to have a retro display with architectural pieces from a different period, but updated and modernized.”

Bassett said she hopes to have a festival again next year, with a more consolidated festival area and closed-off streets for block parties.

“It was a little too spread out, which was a logistical challenge,” Bassett said. “More space like the construction zone on Moody Street would be wonderful.”

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