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Steampunk rolls into Waltham this weekend for third annual festival

Posted by Jaclyn Reiss  May 9, 2012 02:46 PM

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Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe

Isaiah Plovnick of Salem poses for a portrait during a steampunk event held at the Charles River Museum of Industry and Innovation in Waltham in 2011.

Waltham, it's time to don your brass goggles once more.

The Watch City Festival, the third annual event in Waltham celebrating all things steampunk, will roll into town this Saturday and Sunday, attracting an estimated 20,000 people for costumed character performances, period music, a steampunk art exhibit, and nearly 50 local and national vendors.

Steampunk, a movement that visualizes modern technology in the Victorian Era (think: The Prestige meets Iron Man), has increasingly gained traction worldwide and loyal followers.

The three-day festival last year, hosted by the Charles River Museum of Industry and Innovation, attracted nearly 10,000 people in one weekend despite rainy weather and the Mother's Day holiday, said Elln Hagney, executive director of the museum and this weekend's event organizer.

This year, Hagney said she expects a minimum of 15,000 attendees, and would not be surprised if that number climbed to 20,000.

Attractions will include a steampunk exhibit in the Museum of Industry and Innovation, hot air balloon rides, a Steampunk Film Festival, a New Orleans-style parade, a faux mayoral election, robot feedings, academic lectures, innovation demonstrations, high wheel bicycle rides, vendor displays, musical acts, and a steampunk Town Meeting.

While many events are free, attendees can purchase official festival buttons for museum admission, closed events, and vendor discounts. Adult buttons are $20 for the weekend or $15 per day, and children's buttons for ages 4 through 12 are $10 for the weekend or $7 per day.

Proceeds will go towards renovating the museum, which suffered $500,000 worth of damage in a 2010 spring flood.

Hagney said approximately 1,000 buttons have already been purchased. Attendees can buy buttons online or purchase at the event.

Hagney said she looks forward to the Steampunk Mayor election results on Friday night at Watch City Brewing Co., as the candidate pool has been narrowed from five people to two: steampunk lawyer and academia enthusiast Rupert Cornelius, and the wealthy John Hancock-esque Baron Von Lahey.

"There are two cities: Waltham, the city that functions in this realm, and then Steampunk City, which is the same location along the Charles River, but in this steampunk alternative world or universe," Hagney said. "And in Steampunk City, they are having an election for mayor of the city. This will be a lot more entertaining than our presidential elections."

Vendors will also set up shop in the Waltham Common, Landry Park, the Charles River museum, and in indoor space along Moody Street, selling clothes, trinkets, and snacks. The Waltham Farmers Market will also sell fresh produce, food, and other products.

Hagney said Waltham's government, including Mayor Jeannette McCarthy, have been fully supportive of the event, opening City Hall for use during the weekend.

Hagney also said the police and fire departments proved more than cooperative for this year's festival, citing last year's success and the polite spirits of attendees as main attributes.

"I didn’t hear a single negative response last year. Police couldn’t even cite someone littering – this is a truly family-friendly event," Hagney said. "To not even have a speeding ticket or fender bender is pretty remarkable."

Restaurants, bars and shops along Moody Street and in the downtown Waltham area are also excited about the festival, offering discounts to attendees or even hosting events in their space, Hagney said.

She said area restaurants and bars are "ecstatic" about this year's event, as many saw lines out the door last year, and even ran out of certain culinary dishes as Steampunkers flocked to the city.

"In A Pickle told me, 'Many say they will bring thousands, but Elln, you did it and you delivered,'" Hagney said, adding that Watch City Brewing Co. had a record-breaking sales weekend.

The Waltham Courtyard Marriott, the Holiday Inn Express, and the Hilton Garden Inn have partnered to offer visitors discounted rates and special steampunk events throughout the weekend.

For more information on the event or to reserve a button, visit the festival's website.

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