Wild west meets steampunk at Tucson convention

The Wild Wild West Steampunk Convention 6 at Old Tucson is said to be Arizona’s largest steampunk convention.

The convention featured an array of activities, including concerts such as the Mission Creeps and Cog is Dead, who played Saturday night. Visitors also had the chance to meet actor Sam Jones, who played Flash Gordon in 1980’s “Flash Gordon,” for a Q&A session. A fashion show also took place, and individuals could learn how to steampunk their makeup, create props from junk or even how to make beard oil and mustache wax.

According to the Oxford Dictionary, steampunk is a science fiction genre with a historical setting, often featuring steam-powered machinery. The term has been further applied to fashion, music and mechanics.

The convention also held competitions for children attending the convention. Face painting, kid’s tea dueling, story time and costume contests were just a few activities for children.

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Teresa Stoa, whose character name is Lady M. Chester Pierce, has attended several steampunk conventions over the years. 

“I just love the venue here in Tucson,” Stoa said. “It is the best.”

Stoa, who is from Ramah, New Mexico, is a doll maker who also dresses dolls. Stoa had Cabbage Patch Kids dolls that she had “steampunked out” riding along in a train she had built. 

“I started out with a baby carriage chassis and two crates, which is the passenger and where the engine goes,” Stoa said. “And the boiler does have a bubble maker.”

The train was topped with another mechanical invention, the Tea Biscuit, which was featured in teapot races. The Tea Biscuit is a tea pot set upon a motorized car, which is then decorated and raced against others. Stoa also mentioned tea dueling, the art of gracefully dunking a tea biscuit into a cup of tea. These duels are sanctioned by the American Tea Dueling Society.

“The steampunk genre is so mysterious,” Stoa said. 

She said she was drawn to the conventions because she is a maker and loves the self-expression that accompanies the genre.

Ray Goodwin, a resident of Tucson, said he visits the steampunk convention to take pictures of those in costume.

“This is the third year I have been, and each year it gets a little better,” Goodwin said.

Goodwin said he is a photographer who shoots an array of photos for different organizations, and attending the steampunk convention is something he does for himself.

“If you look beyond the costumes, the people are interesting, and they seem to be having a lot of fun,” Goodwin said.

Individuals walked around Old Tucson clad in steampunk-fashioned clothing, from corsets for the neo-Victorian look with parasols, goggles and fur, to Joker and Harley Quinn-inspired looks.

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A group of performers present at the convention were the SinCity Steampunk Dolls from Las Vegas, Nevada. One of the dolls, Jacquelyn Salter, said she has performed two out of the four years the group has been performing. 

Charlie M. Yaney-Johnston, owner of the SinCity Steampunk Dolls, said she has done all kinds of coaching over the years.

“I was actually in charge of the jazz dance team and the color guard for Las Vegas High School and did that for several years,” Johnston said. “I was on many varsity teams for dance, choreography and the ice skating team, so I learned to do formations on ice which I have now incorporated in with our routines.”

She said all the information she collected from those teams has allowed her to combine different elements and music to create their current shows. The dolls dance with flags, parasols, whips and streamers. The group performs three local events and spends most of their time traveling for shows.

There were over 33 vendors set up throughout Old Tucson selling merchandise, from hats and parasols to steampunk outfits and jewelry.

A similar event, the Gaslight Steampunk Expo, will be Oct. 6-8, 2017, in San Diego, California. For more information, visit www.gaslightexpo.org.


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