TAMPA, Fla. (April. 14, 2013)- Steampunks from the Tampa Bay area and beyond traveled to the Bay Area Renaissance Festival for their first annual “Steampunk Costume Contest” this year. Dozens lined up in elaborate costumes to flaunt handmade bustle skirts, goggles, weaponry and more.
Linda Evans, a local jewelry artisan and member of the Tampa Bay Steampunk Society, wanted to step outside her whimsical comfort zone with something a little more suited for the event. Her outfit, a brightly-colored “Steam Brave” costume, was complete with a cerulean blue plaid kilt and handcrafted jewelry.
“I am always amazed about the fabulous level of craftiness that I see in costumers at the Ren faire and I usually go as a fairy or Lord of the Rings-ish but this year I wanted a full outfit for the contest and I wanted it to look good so I took a idea I saw on Pininterest and made I my own,” Evans said. “I was really happy with the result -it was all handmade and hand-sewn and held up in both Ren fair and Ybor conditions.”
This was the first year B.A.R.F., as the locals affectionately call the festival, put on a
Steampunk costume contest. Local steampunk groups have been “invading” the festival for a few years now and the last couple of years, the festival offered a discount on select days to anyone in Steampunk costume. This was the first official steampunk event and to commemorate it, the Florida Steampunk Society and Tampa Bay Steampunk Society held a “steampunk invasion” and took a group picture that day. members of the Central Florida Steampunk Society and other steampunk groups around Florida joined them.
Tobias Faust, who had never attended B.A.R.F. before the steampunk invasion, joined about 30 other individuals for the group photo in front of the “Two Gentlemen of Fortune” vendor booth, run by Mickey Flint of the FSS. Then he headed over with old and newfound friends to the contest. Although he didn’t win, he said he was thrilled to be a part of the inaugural event.
“It was very exciting to see all the other steampunks and their own unique creations out for the world to see and be admired for the craftsmanship,” Faust said. “And being a part of that just made it all the more exciting and surreal.”
The winner of the overall contest was Brian Cargile, an Oldsmar resident, with his “Steam Freak” costume. Second place went to a young girl whose parents made her frilly, feminine steampunk outfit from a clockwork fabric and third place went to a young woman with expandable fabric and wood wings.
It’s only in recent years that the ren fest community has embraced the anachronism that steampunk brings to the festival. Ren fests tend to be based in 14th through 16th century history and purists aren’t fond of the “wibbley wobbly timey wimey” aspect that steampunks bring to the table. Most steampunks base their outfits on Victorian aesthetics from the 19th century, making their outfits out of place in the context of time periods. Then again, it’s not uncommon to see a Doctor, Spock, or gothic folks running around in dog collars there either.
“There are a few odd looks here and there but I see it as a good thing becuase steampunk can embrace Renaissance qualities, giving more of a happy medium for the genres,” Faust said.
As steampunk continues to rise in popularity, more steampunks may crop up at Renaissance festivals internationally but for now, the locals are happy to have an officially sanctioned creative outlet in their Renaissance Festival.