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Steampunk at Altitude Festival 2018

Over the weekend of the 5th and 6th of May, the Steampunk at Altitude festival was hosted in the little country town of Nimmitabel in NSW, just a 2 hour drive south of Canberra.

The vibrant life, laughter and music attracted costume-dressed participants from all over NSW, Victoria and the ACT. At the event, attendees could find dozens of stalls to browse, workshops to interact in, live music to listen to, and delicious food to eat.

Steampunk is the fashionable love-child of Victorian-era style clothing and the untamed imagination of science-fiction. Steampunk costumes are vastly varied, but generally tend to stick to two simple guidelines: over-the-top Victorian fashion, topped with every cog, wheel, gizmo, gadget and other technological wonders you can attach in any conceivable way. Variants include pirate steampunk, Gothic steampunk, and cyberpunk.

The energy at the festival was incredible. For a town that normally caters to a mere 200 residents, the turn-out of hundreds of attendees was astounding. Starting from 10am both mornings, the Town Crier announced the start and close of each day by ringing his bell, cries of “hear ye, hear ye”, and bellowing out the next upcoming collection of performances, games, workshops and challenges.

When the local LIONS Club pulled out from a lunch-time sausage-sizzle last minute, Bell’s Cafe in the main street of Nimmitabel was so overcrowded with hungry customers that they ran out of several food options. As well as this, all three establishments to find overnight accommodation were also packed out, with a number of people sleeping in cars or camping in the showground down the road between the two festival days.

Among various games and challenges over the weekend, the festival hosted three steampunk Live Action Role-Play (or, LARP) adventures, parasol dueling, and “tea dueling”. The last of these involved dipping a biscuit into tea for a specified period of time, then withdrawing and holding it for another few moments before attempting to carefully eat it, with the aim being to lose as little biscuit as possible. Challenging and oddly technical to play, while also being surprisingly entertaining and suspenseful to watch.

Photo by Eliza Walker

While the Saturday night might have had the all-enthralling dinner-dance, it was really during the day that you got to listen to the widest selection of musicians. Multiple musicians got involved, with many performing all day up-and-down the main street creating an energetic, joyful atmosphere.

If you want to see or hear more about the event, or keep an ear-out for announcement of next year’s festival, following the Steampunk at Altitude Facebook page.

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