Yesterday, my son and I went to our second Wild West Steam Fest! This event takes place yearly at the Heritage Museum of Orange County. It’s exactly what it sounds like: a Wild West steampunk gathering with music and other performances, panels, vendors, and a lot of wonderful people. The Heritage Museum of Orange County is an outdoor venue that includes one upper middle class home, The Kellogg House, that has been preserved as it was in 1898, a gift shop, a smithy, and several other buildings used for meetings and panels. You'll find orange trees and other foliage providing shade (which was much-needed during this year's 95 degree heat). It ran from 11:00 am until 7:00 pm, though Clark and I left shortly after 5:00 pm, as the event was winding down.
Rather than take you through our day step by step, I'll share the highlights with pictures and videos. The links will allow you to discover groups and people in the steampunk community who may catch your interest.
Many performances take place on the main stage, which is a white gazebo. Acts there included Bank of Harmony, a barbershop quartet that performed modern tunes in old-timey fashion, from Sia to Def Lepard, and some classics as well. Their bass later rhapsodized, musically speaking, on the piano.
By the picnic tables we found Dr. Deamon Diapason playing piano. This is also near the smithy. He delighted us with tunes like Daydream Believer and Grim Grinning Ghosts, and was surprised when I recognized both tunes, especially the latter. His rendition of Grim Grinning Ghosts, the theme song from my favorite Disney ride, The Haunted Mansion, was a little different, so it did take me a bit to figure it out. Honestly, I hope I can find his version of it somewhere. It was awesome.
Here, you can watch and listen to him playing So Long Frank Lloyd Wright by Simon and Garfunkel. Check my YouTube channel for the other two songs he performed that I set to video.
We had a look around at the vendor booths, where we found lots of hats and goggles, various steampunk-style guns, books, jewelry, aromatherapy products, and more. All are a testament to the creativity and maker-spirit that fill the steampunk community.
I found my friend and fellow steampunk author Michelle E. Lowe, who had a table where she and her friend, Miss Elaneous, were selling various steampunk goods. These included Michelle’s Legacy novel series. I have the second book on my Kindle, so I traded her a copy of Bodacious Creed: a Steampunk Zombie Western for the first in her series, titled simply, Legacy. The edition is beautiful. I love the cover, and I'm looking forward to reading it.
Tara from Gear Oils sells a variety of aromatherapy and other products. I tried her Gentleman's Beard Balm, which smells of sandalwood and feels great. It helps moisturize the skin and keep beard hair from getting bristly. Here products are very reasonably priced, so check out her shop on Etsy!
Another fun vendor is Gears & Roebuck, run by Mark and Shannon Hoage. My son loved their stuff. They take toys and masks and turn them into steampunk versions. This is the heart of what steampunk is in the maker community, taking found or purchased objects and re-imagining them. Clark tried on a variety of their masks, including Kylo Ren's helmet, Cast-Iron Man, steampunk Spider-Man, Darth Vader, and more. He also had fun checking out the prop guns, made from water pistols and the like.
Family Creations Presents: A Link in Time had a table set up where kids could make their own medals for free. My son got to do that. They sell "Handcrafted Jewelry & Chainmaille," and have lots of gorgeous designs. They're well-worth checking out!
One surprise highlight of my day came when I chatted with the Faro dealer. Yes, you could play Faro at Wild West Steam Fest! Anyway, I learned that he has played a host on Westworld, one of my absolutely favorite shows. In a few scenes, he's the Faro dealer. His name is Pico Pistolero, and you should look him up.
In the Quilting House, right behind Pico Pistolero, we got to catch a screening of the steampunk short, Love in the Age of Steam, staring Genevieve Levin. It was exceptional, especially considering they had no budget and everyone worked pro-bono. The film also featured my friend Nathan Seekerman, who, along with the Star Wars Steampunk Universe, does great charity work.
A couple of my favorite cosplayers at the event were Jessica Puertas and Adam Dollins, who create masks, costumes, props, and more. You can reach them at (adam dot dgdollins at yahoo dot com), or (rjump88 at gmail dot com). We also enjoyed watching SwingShift SideShow, a circus duo that has appeared on America's Got Talent. Their performance involved sword swallowing and internal organ repositioning (don't try either of these at home!).
We didn't even see half of what was going on! If you'd like to know more about Wild West Steam Fest, visit the event website.
Since I'm a steampunk author, an event like this is, for me, half about having fun and being around like-minded people, and half about business. Even the business part is mostly fun!
This year, I wanted to promote my current Kickstarter, which is to help fund the Bodacious Creed and the Frisco Syndicate, the sequel to my popular novel, Bodacious Creed: a Steampunk Zombie Western.
I came prepared, with the real deck of cards you see on the right. On the back is an advertisement for the Kickstarter.
Several people commented on how they loved this marketing idea, and that they were interested in learning more about the book.
My friend Jamie, Director of Social Enterprise at the Heritage Museum of Orange County, wanted to support me, so she put a copy of Bodacious Creed: a Steampunk Zombie Western in the gift shop. That way, they could let people know I was at the event and selling copies, and I did sell two, so not bad. They actually ordered copies from the distributor for the gift shop, but those hadn't arrived yet.
Back to the cards, I managed to give most of them away, and left the remaining cards at the register in the shop, with permission, so visitors can see them and grab one. The Kickstarter has just nine days left, and still needs more funding to complete successfully! If it doesn't make the full $3,500, which I will need to be able to pay my cover artist, editor, narrator, and have a little extra for research, I won't get anything. That's how Kickstarter works. So, if you've been waiting to back it, now's the time! Go there now.
I got to met a lot of amazing people, learn about products I may order later to complete my and my son's cosplays, get a book, and have a fantastic time. I recommend this event to anyone interested in the Wild West and steampunk, and who lives in Orange or LA Counties. You'll have a blast.