Interview with Steampunk November
I am really excited getting ready for Steampunk November (SPN) in a few weeks. Three days of music, vendors, tea and steampunks on the 9th through 11th. Leslie of SPN took a few moments during her busy day to answer a few questions. Five pages worth! I’ve got some closing information at the end, but let’s get to that interview.
KL: In a nutshell, what is Steampunk November?
SPN: A three day outdoor music and arts festival based in the science fiction genre of Steampunk, which is set in the Victorian era.
KL: How did SPN come about?
SPN: Leslie's favorite story. We used to have a large Halloween party each year for all of our friends. One year Shane decided that instead of that party, we should have a Steampunk festival. This conversation happen SIX WEEKS before he wanted to have said festival. Leslie said that can't be done, it takes year to plan something like that. Shane said we can do it. Leslie shook her head and caved. And Steampunk November was born. After year one we said we MAY do this again. We said that again after year two. Year three is when we finally just said of COURSE we are doing this again! This is now year eight and we are still going so Leslie has finally admitting that yes, we did do it and keep on doing it every year.
KL: Who are the volunteers and organizations who help make this possible?
SPN: We are family owned and operated. That family extends to a group of very close friends that help us with the management and puts up with our crazy all the year round. We also depend on annual volunteers (which we tend to always need more of the bigger we get) to help run all the different parts of this machine. That list of individual names would take up the rest of this article. We also have a volunteer cast of interactive characters called The Amber Inn Academy Performers. We do want to give a special thanks to Durian Grey Productions for bringing their special contribution at the festival. We love our volunteers and couldn't do it without all of them.
We are also very fortunate to have some great sponsors and partners for our event. (We are always looking for those, too!) This year we have the Pegasus City Brewery, Raymond's Liquor Stop, Tea Punk Teas, A-Kon, Hampton Inn & Suites Mansfield, Comfort Inn Mansfield, and the Fairfield Inn & Suites Mansfield on board supporting our festival.
KL: How has SPN evolved over the years?
SPN: That first year was pretty rough. (cough, cough, SIX WEEKS, Shane!) It was a 12 hour event and we had one stage, 3-4 bands, 2 belly dance troupes, a burlesque show, a side show act, and about 10 vendors basically all in our front yard. Since then, we have expanded to include about 10 more acres of our land. In that expansion, we are now three days, five stages with an additional three performance areas, around 25 different entertainment acts (which totals way over 100 time slots on our schedule), over 65 vendors, food trucks and booths, onsite camping, a roving cast of entertainers, games, and so much more. Every year gets bigger and bigger.
KL: Where does the food drive you collect go and how can we help?
SPN: This year we are working with the Tarrant Area Food Bank (TAFB) and running our Gears of Giving food drive. Hunger in our area is a real problem, just like it is in so many parts of our country. Statistically 1 in 4 children doesn't have enough food to eat. There are a few ways our attendees can help out. Food donations, cash donations, our festival Jail and Bail, and raffle ticket purchases at the festival. Food donations: We give $5 off a ticket purchase at the gate with a donation of 5 qualifying items. Those items can be found on our website at http://steampunknovember.com/foodbank.html. The food cannot be expired! For anyone who has already purchased their tickets, 5 cans equals 5 raffle tickets. Cash donations: We will have a donation jar in our ticket booth where people can just give money to the food drive. $1 donated to the food bank provides up to five meals! We run a raffle with some pretty amazing baskets as well and the proceeds from those ticket sales go straight to the food bank. Then we have a Jail and Bail that runs during the festival. This one is kind of fun. People can pay to have their friends (or foes) "arrested" by our town posse and held in the town jail however many minutes they pay for. The arrested person can wait out their time, or pay "bail" to be released early. 50% of the money brought in goes to the food bank. (the other 50% goes into maintaining the jail and all the parts involved to make it function). In years past, we have been able to provide anywhere from 1700-2300 meals each year with our food drive, and we are always hoping to increase the number.
KL: What should a newcomer know or prepare for to enjoy SPN?
SPN: Look at the weather and prepare for whatever it might be. We are a rain or shine show. Beyond that, be prepared to have a really great time. And we have been told by several multiple year attendees that they save up to spend money with our vendors, so probably prepare for that. We have an ATM on site for any vendors that don't take cards.
KL: How many attendees are there? What % are in costume?
SPN: Our turnstile numbers were around 1800 last year and based on our consistent growth over the past years, we are estimating turnstiles to be around 2300-2500 this year. It is really hard to tell what percent are in costume because we don't really keep track of that, but we are guesstimating that maybe 40-45% are in costume.
KL: What if I don’t have a steampunk costume?
SPN: Come as you are. We take all kinds of punks here, costumed or not. We have people in a huge variety of costumes that aren't steampunk or are hybrids of cosplay and steampunk. And of course, there is no requirement to be in costume, but if you are looking for a costume we have a ton of vendors that can help you out. No one will call you out or look at you funny if you don't have any costuming, though, so don't worry.
KL: What is new at this year’s event?
SPN: Pay for play games! We have several skill games now for patrons to play with our new wooden nickel tokens (tokens will be available for purchase at the festival) and those tokens can be redeemed for prizes!
KL: How much of the year do you put in working on SPN?
SPN: All of it. Every day we work on some aspect of the festival. The prep for the next festival begins before the current festival even happens.
KL: Is there anything SPN needs help with for future events, expansion that readers might solve?
SPN: We always need help working on the site. There is always a project, a build, an improvement, a repair. We also do several other events including weddings, retreats, camping events, an author's convention, and our volunteer appreciation party so there is always something to help out with around here. Right now, our biggest need is getting road base throughout the site. The unusually wet weather conditions have really caused some flood damage to the site the past few weeks. We have special sponsorships on our ticketing page for giving to the road base cause, and one of our volunteers started a SpinGo to raise money. It is a big site, so it takes a lot of road base to get it covered.
KL: Describe some of the activities to watch and participate in?
SPN: There is live music, dance, magic, sideshow, circus, burlesque, Afternoon Tea, Wine Tasting, Beer Tasting, Tea Dueling, a slam poetry contest, and shopping. We also have pay for play games, a saloon, and weather permitting, hot air balloons. There is an interactive LARP on Saturday and we have strolling cast of characters. Everywhere you go at our festival, there is something to see or do.
KL: Where can I stay while attending SPN?
SPN: We have rustic on site camping for those who want to "rough it", and we have flushing toilets and a shower house for our campers. We do allow campers, we just don't have any RV hookups. We also have three partner hotels with special rates for our attendees. The Comfort Inn Mansfield, The Hampton Inn & Suites Mansfield, and The Fairfield Inn & Suites Mansfield. More information on those special rates can be found on our website.
KL: Is there anything I should plan for with meals, or are there food vendors?
SPN: We have three concessions stands across the site and a cash bar in the Gilded Rose Saloon. In addition to that, we bring in food trucks and food vendors with a variety of food to choose from. There are also breakfast concessions in the saloon for campers. If the weather prevents our food trucks from coming in, we will have hot food concessions in the saloon to supplement the food booths on site.
KL: What was the most surprising or interesting thing you’ve seen at SPN?
SPN: We are always amazed at the outstanding costumes our attendees come up with, but the most surprising or interesting thing I think we have seen is the attendee who decided to fly his helicopter here instead of driving. We had to set up a landing pad area in our parking lot for him and he came out of the cockpit in full steampunk regalia.
KL: Is there anything else readers should know?
SPN: We are a mostly family friendly festival, and we love having kids attend (especially when the little ones are in costume - so cute!) but we do require that anyone under 18 be accompanied by an adult. There is a lot of land out here and we don't want anyone to wander off or get hurt. Also, Friday night at 11 pm is a full on burlesque show on our Train stage, so use whatever judgment you want on if you let your under 18s see that show. There is plenty of other entertainment going on in other areas of the festival at that time so there is still lots to see.
KL: I built a Splendid Teapot Racer last Christmas, can I race it at SPN?)
SPN: You are more than welcome to bring out your racer and drive it on site (at your own risk but at this time we do not have an official Splendid Teapot Race track or obstacle course. It is something we have discussed adding to the festival, we just haven't done it yet.
Thanks Leslie and SPN for sharing your story, I learned a lot and am really looking forward to my second time visiting. This year, I’ve got a press pass, a first for me, so next months article will follow-up on my trip. To my readers, I’ve got some links for you, the SPN web site, and a link to the roadbed donation project. Any help you can give will ensure my car doesn’t get stuck if it rains. Check the links out, come out and spend a day or weekend with Steampunk November ( it’s only a five hour drive for me), and donate if you can to help a good cause.
The main SPN Website
The Road Project for SPN that needs donations
Remember, it's November 9-11, 2018 in Mansfield, Texas! Come back for my follow-up report or find me at SPN.