Cortland County Steampunk Festival is Underway

(Photo taken by Kaitlyn Hession/Cortland Voice).

Fans of the steampunk genre are coming together from near and far this weekend for the annual Steampunk Festival taking place around the city of Cortland. The festival began on Friday September 27th and will be going until Sunday the 29th.

Throughout the weekend, guests will have the opportunity to participate in various activities in the Crown City that circle around Steampunk culture. From a downtown walking tour displaying Cortland’s historic architecture from the industrial age to the Steampunk Fashion show taking place Saturday at the Cortland Repertory Theatre, there will always be something going on during the festival!

The idea of the unique festival came from Bonnie Quackenbush, a resident of Cortland, who had always enjoyed the 1890 house and its rich history that all started with a young man full of ideas. His ideas would soon be one of many that influence the amazing culture of Steampunk.

During the Crown’s City’s beginnings, Cortland County native Chester Franklin Wickwire left his family in McGraw, NY at the age of 22 to seek his fortune in the city of Cortland when he opened a hardware store on main street. In 1873, a customer, Rowland Hall from Elmira, NY, entered the store to buy some plant stands. Unable to pay for them, Hall bartered with Wickwire and gave him several items: dog muzzles, rat traps, eggbeaters, and a carpet loom to pay for the stands. Wickwire, being a mechanically minded individual, used these items to make products that suited the then farming community that was Cortland. Items such as horse muzzles, seed spreaders, window screens, coal sieves, and popcorn poppers were made and soon the hardware store evolved into Wickwire Brothers Company. By 1883, the company became the second largest producer of wire goods in the country. The Wickwire Company joined other local companies such as the Brockway Carriage company and the Cortland Corset Company to help inspire the Steampunk spirit we know today.

One of the most eye-catching costumes worn at the festival came from Sam Martin, a steampunk enthusiast from Lansing. Martin’s costume consisted of materials that came from the Ithaca re-use center. 

“I’ve always enjoyed the concept of perfecting things from the past,” said Martin. 

One of the items he perfected was a vintage projector, where he replaced the incandescent bulb with a flashlight. Other fantastic costumes that were seen at the event included mechanical wings, gear hats, and even a scuba diver steampunk head!

As we move into day two of the festival, be sure to wear your best steampunk costume as judging for the Steampunk Fashion show takes place at the Cortland Courthouse Park starting at 10am. Judges will choose their favorite outfits and decide who will make the cut to participate in the fashion show later in the day. While you're in your outfit, be sure to visit some local restaurants for an in-costume discount.

This and many other activities centered around this unique culture will take place at the shops in the Cortland Corset Building, the CNY Living History Center, Cortland County Historical Society, the Cortland Repertory Theatre, the 1890 house, and more! If you're a Steampunk enthusiast or just curious about the culture, come to the festival! As for locals, don’t be scared to say hi to those in costume!