Visiting the 2nd Annual Steampunk World’s Fair with O.M. Grey

Even a week later, I find that I'm still decompressing from a most splendid weekend at the 2nd Annual Steampunk World's Fair. Held at the Crown Plaza in Somerset, NJ, it was a whirlwind of bustles, top hats, and unadulterated joy.

O. M. Grey and DJ Doctor Q

Friday's festivities started for me when I ran into my dear friend and premiere Steampunk DJ Doctor Q while wandering the vendor halls. It had been months since I'd seen him, so it was quite delightful to catch up. He introduced me to his friend and Steampunk World's Fair headlining music act Professor Elemental, a fine (albeit quite mad) gentleman who does something called Chap-Hop.

Shortly thereafter, chaos struck. Someone didn't cross a "t" on some contract somewhere, and the Fire Marshall forbade merchants from vending out of their rooms. But despite this snafu, the steampunks in attendance gathered together and helped all the vendors move into public areas. For hours the hallways were filled with swaying bustles carrying merchandise and dapper gentleman hauling tables. I overheard one lady call it the "Steampunk Trail of Tears," and it was rather inconvenient for the vendors, to say the least. But watching everyone in their fine dress pitch in and help was quite heartwarming, a testament to the community beneath the aesthetic. Vendors found new space to set up in the ballroom, art room, restaurant, and bar, among other places. Although things were a bit more cramped than planned, I like to think of it as more intimate.

Sir Captain Cedric Whittaker, Sir Professor Elemental, Sir Boba Fett, along with Mr. Saturday

Opening ceremonies included an introduction of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, a fun skit by the King of the Gypsies Anthony Pomerleau, and naming yours truly "Muse of the Fair" for being an inspiration to other artists and steampunks. It was truly an honor. The Gypsy King gifted me with a “Beauty” ribbon, one of the four pillars of bohemian ideals. That afternoon, Captain Cedric Whittaker, graciously asked me to accompany him to the knighting ceremony where he would receive the distinction of Knight of Steampunk along with Professor Elemental and Steampunk Boba Fett. The ceremony itself was quite nice, and I was moved to watch my dear friend accept the honor he so deserved as a shining example of steampunks everywhere. Capt. Whittaker and his crew of the Airship Isabella have done more than anyone to bring together a strong community of steampunks across the South. Well done, Sir Cedric!

Emperor Norton's Stationary Marching Band

Friday night, out in the hotel’s portico, the amazingly exuberant Emperor Norton’s Stationary Marching Bandentertained a large crowd. I’ve never seen anything like ENSMB. Throughout the weekend, they would march through the hotel, playing in the hallways, foyer, and elevator. One particular event that I’m most disappointed I missed is when ENSMB played in the elevator, stopping at every floor, while Professor Elemental rapped freestyle. There was so much going on at any given time, that it was impossible to see it all. But Friday night I enjoyed ENSMB to the fullest. The crowd danced a circle around the band as they played. Dr. Q and I cut a bit of a rug ourselves with an impromptu Jitterbug Swing. Haven’t danced like that in years. Definitely a highlight of the weekend.

I was particularly looking forward to The Big Brass Ball to learn some period dancing, but I arrived too late and there was no more room. Since the vendors moved into the ballroom, there was only 1/3 the space they expected. Next year. No doubt. The night ended for me with a private VIP concert by Eli August, an extremely talented musician. His music is on the opposite end of the happy spectrum from ENSMB, but having spent too much time in the darkness myself, I can relate. Very sad, very beautiful.

Professor Elemental - photo by Jessica Lilley

Saturday. Insanity. My Saturday started a little too early after having been out so late the night before. At 10:00 am, I was on a panel on Mixing Genres in Steampunk Literature along with authors Stella Price, PJ Schnyder, Clay and Susan Griffith, and CJ Henderson. Shortly thereafter, I caught Professor Elemental’s show because I just had to see what this Steampunk “Chap Hop” was all about. Several people told me that I simply must catch his show because he was great. Turns out that was a gross understatement. I’m actually quite convinced that Professor Elemental is some kind of mad genius. Brilliant. Dressed in a safari trousers and a pith helmet, he not only has a great stage presence and playfully interacts with his audience, sometimes inviting members up on stage to participate as live props, but his songs also have a perfect blend of absurdity and wit. When Professor Elemental raps, pure delight emerges from the speakers and infects the entire audience, inspiring laughter, dancing, and overall joviality. Truly brilliant. Have I already said that? It’s worth saying again. Truly brilliant. When anyone says “Professor Elemental?” Answer with a resounding “Yes, please!” Lovely.

Leanna Renee Hieber and O. M. Grey

Afterward, I did a reading from my novel Avalon Revisited during the Mad Tea Party, which was sold out. The tea and treats were delicious and the company was top notch. Immediately following, I attended Tee Morris and Pip Ballentine’s Ministry Tea Party and Book Launch for their new Steampunk Adventure Novel Phoenix Rising. The authors read from their book, chatted with readers, and served tea with zeppelin shaped cookies. Splendid. Yes, indeed! Afterward all the guest authors at the event remained for an official signing where we all got a chance to meet and interact with readers. It was turning out to be quite the literary afternoon. My dear friend and colleague Leanna Renee Hieber read from her new novelThe Perilous Prophecy of Guard and Goddess, the third book in the Strangely Beautiful series, leading us right up to the highly advertised Rapture.

Steampunk Boba Fett Post-Rapture

In honor of the Rapture at 6pm, JoJo Lazar performed REM’s “End of the World” in the vestibule, an exhausted Jesus, SPWF organizer Gil Cnaan, was wheeled away on a stretcher after a hard day at work, and Steampunk Boba Fett left the rest of us behind.

Saturday evening was The Big Brass Ball, pt 2: Dance Party where I finally got to hear DJ Doctor Q spin for the first time and began to truly understand what a DJ does. His set was like a work of art, from the songs he chose to the way he mixed them together, sometimes with wonderfully fun snippets from Doctor Who and Star Wars. I danced the night away with the fine gentleman from the Airship Isabella, and I even got to do another Jitterbug or two with Doctor Q.  Another highlight of Saturday night was the “To Whom Does That Line Pertain To, Dear Chap?” held out in the portico, a Steampunk version of the improv show “Who’s Line Is It Anyway?” put on by the fabulous Mr. Saturday and Sixpence from Texas's own Aetherfest. Hilarious.

Sunday, I must confess, was rather a blur. Since my Saturday didn’t end until 5:30 am, I was a bit  zombified on Sunday. Still, it was a brilliant day full of croquet on the lawn, fine tea, and more great music by Frenchy & The Punk, Professor Elemental, Emperor Norton’s Stationary Marching Band, and Eli August. The morning was rather sad, as the reception area quickly filled with steampunks and their suitcases checking out and heading home, the first indication things were winding down. But the day still held some wonders, like Queen Victoria’s Birthday Tea Party with the glorious voice of Katie Kat and a reading by Lia Habel.

Although I thought it was all over, fate had other plans. My flight back to Texas was postposed overnight, so I was stuck in New Jersey. Fortunately, I got to spend the evening with friends in New York City. Jamee Goh, Ay-leen the Peacemaker, Lucretia Dearfour, and Professor Elemental certainly made this bonus night something very special indeed.

Ultimately, this splendid weekend had me blissfully intoxicated. Please don’t miss next year’s Steampunk World’s Fair 2012, for there is nothing quite like it. I most certainly will be there.

O. M. Grey
Author. Poet. Romantic.
Arthur Tudor has made his existence as a vampire bearable for over three hundred years by immersing himself in blood and debauchery. Aboard an airship gala, he meets Avalon, an aspiring vampire slayer who sparks fire into Arthur’s shriveled heart. Together they try to solve the mystery of several horrendous murders on the dark streets of London. Cultures clash and pressures rise in this sexy Steampunk Romance.

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Comment by Amaryllis Higgenbottom on June 1, 2011 at 8:13am
Thanks so much for your detailed report of SPWF - I was quite sad that I could not attend and lapped up every word!
Comment by Nancy Overbury on June 1, 2011 at 10:02am
Thank you Miss Higgenbottom. As Muse of the Fair, Ms O.M. Grey really captured the spirit of the festivities.
Comment by Emilie P. Bush on June 2, 2011 at 6:59am
I was there - it WAS chaos. Wild, Wild WILD!


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