If you’re in downtown Oxnard this weekend and you see hordes of people dressed as if they just stepped out of a Jules Verne airship, fear not — they’re just going to the Steampunk Fest. The first in what Heritage Square hopes will be an annual event, the Steampunk Fest celebrates the growing subculture of steampunk, an artistic movement that marries the hope of Victorian-era science-fiction and technology with the aesthetics of modern life. Imagine a brass rocketship bathed in tweed and marinated in gears and you get the general idea. Some of the events in the daylong cavalcade to raise money to benefit the historical outreach of Heritage Square include the Steamy Tweed Bicycle Cruise through the older neighborhoods of downtown Oxnard, Anacapa Trading Company’s hand-burned pyrographic art etchings, a TechnoTeapot Tea, a lecture titled Steampunk 101 and a steampunk couture exhibition.
“Heritage Square is about to start the countdown for our 25th anniversary, which falls on October 17, 2016,” explains Gary Blum, Heritage Square site superintendent and chairman of the Oxnard Steampunk Fest, “and the concept for the Steampunk Fest was something we started thinking about for a couple years, now that the craze has sort of gone mainstream.”
Originally, the aspirations at Heritage Square were modest. “As we began to get input from local businesses and steampunk artists around the area we thought that we’ve got enough here to do a nice little festival. We started officially planning back in April, and it’s just gone great, says Blum. “We’ve got over 30 vendors, steampunk-themed wine and beer tasting, and The Velveteen Band playing live.” What’s the reaction been from the steampunk community? “Just a ton of people are coming from all over!” he beams, saying, “From Long Beach, Lompoc, San Diego – all over. We reached out to them, sending the word out through social media. One of our docents went down to the Gaslight Gathering in San Diego a few months ago and got a lot of the vendors there to appear at our festival. We’ve got people coming from Pismo Beach; they’re saying, ‘Hey, we don’t have to go to San Diego or Portland or Seattle! It’s all right here in Ventura County.’ We’ve found that there’s a whole local community of people who enjoy steampunk but always had to leave the area to experience it.”
In the interest of total immersion in steampunk consciousness, the Square itself gets into the festive spirit. “On a limited budget, we came up with unique items that incorporate elements already at the Square,” Blum elaborates. “Our water tower is wooden and has a clock with gears and cogs and will have steam belching out of it. We’re bringing a pirate ship in on Thursday as a great backdrop — and just all the people coming to the Square in costume is what will finish it off.” Not all the cogs are decorative; D.A.G.O.N. the Robot will be there as well. “He’s coming in from Lompoc,” Blum says. There are robots in Lompoc? “What can I say?” Blum chuckles, “It’s a steampunk robot!”
The Oxnard Steampunk Fest happens Saturday, Oct. 17, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Heritage Square, 715 S. A St., Oxnard, 483-7960. Admission is free but certain activities will have small fees. More information is available at oxnardsteampunkfest.com.