Steampunk fans to descend on 3-day event with circus theme

EASTGATE — People who favor the steampunk genre will gather at the International Steampunk Symposium for three days of festive competitions, carnival games, interactive classes, entertainment and more.

Steampunk is about science fiction that typically features Victorian settings and steam-powered machinery. Think Jules Verne’s “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea,” or “Atlantis,” or Guy Ritchie’s “Sherlock Holmes.” It’s Victorian-meets-industrial.

The symposium returns to the Greater Cincinnati area on June 16-18.

“One of the things that I love about the International Steampunk Symposium is there’s literally something for everyone,” said Jennifer Noran, owner of the event.

“For me, one of the big things I like is the Steampunk Olympiad. What that is, is a series of games. Friday night opens with a Tea Stroll. People say they want to host a table, and you walk around and meet people. People decorate their tables and you have treats and tea. It’s a mingle, but the tables get judged, and prizes will be awarded,” Noran said.

Other Olympiad Games include a Beard and Mustache Competition, Teapot Racing, a Costume Contest, a Penny Farthing Race and more. Tied in with this year’s circus theme, one new contest on Saturday will be a “Oddities and Curiosities” competition, where people can bring in something that they’ve created.

There are also a variety of classes offered throughout the weekend for newcomers, including “Introduction to Steampunk” and “Costuming on a Budget.”

The International Steampunk Symposium is an annual, weekend-long, family-friendly festival of all-things Steampunk. The convention, which will be at Eastgate Holiday Inn, attracts hundreds.

With a convention theme of “Under the Big Top,” the circus-themed, family-friendly event will include panels, performances, musical acts, vendors, creative costuming and much more.

“I was introduced to Steampunk in 2016, said Noran, who is known in the Steampunk world as Captain Medea Asherah. “I live in Lexington, Kentucky, and one of my girlfriend’s messaged me, and said, ‘hey, there’s this thing called Steampunk, and there’s an event in Cincinnati. Do you want to go?’ and I said, ‘Why not? Let’s go.’ And I went online, Googled Steampunk, cobbled together a costume and went up to the event, spent the day, and I fell in love with it,” she said.

“Every year, there’s a different theme, so there’s always costuming and things to plan,” she said. “Since I’ve been going to the symposium, I have made so many incredible friends, and I’ve had so much fun.”

The ISS was founded in 2012 by Jason Dean (formally known as Aloysius Fox). Dean recently got married and moved to Chicago.

After being postponed during 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the International Steampunk Symposium returned last spring under new ownership with Noran at the helm. She is a graphic designer for the State of Kentucky and first began attending the event with friends.

“My goal is to keep the International Steampunk Symposium in Cincinnati, and then, spread it to Louisville and Lexington. It’s such a wonderful genre, plus, who doesn’t love seeing amazing costuming with handsome men in beautiful, three-piece suites and women in bustles and corsets? Each event is such a pageantry of beautiful things and creativity. I just love it. I love the genre, I love the people and the community,” Noran said.

Guests for this year’s Symposium include Butler County native and Miami University alumni Leanna Renee Hieber, the event’s author in residence and Brett King, a Georgia-based maker/costumer. Georgia-based author Emilie P. Bush will serve as the mistress of ceremonies.

Since 2014, the ISS has partnered with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) to increase awareness and end the stigma about mental illness.

“We are doing a rubber duck regatta, and the money raised from that will go to NAMI, to support them, and we are also doing a silent auction, and the money from that will go to NAMI. So, we’re excited that while we are having fun, and we are having a great weekend of adventure, that we are also helping people while we are having fun,” Noran said.

How to go

What: International Steampunk Symposium

When: June 16-18

Where: Holiday Inn & Suites Cincinnati-Eastgate, 4501 Eastgate Blvd.

Cost: Weekend passes for the International Steampunk Symposium are $70 for adults (21 and older), $50 for ages 13-20, and $30 for ages 6-12. Day passes are also available.

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