Last weekend, the wife and I attended the Steampunk World’s Fair just a stone’s throw from the Raritan River in Piscataway, New Jersey. This was the first time either of us had actually been at a convention in years, and I’m happy to report that we had a fantastic and thrilling time.
I’ve always had a love/hate relationship when it comes to science fiction and fantasy conventions. On the one hand there’s something deliciously comforting about being in a large convention center surrounded by people with the same deep love of the kinds of things that used to get you beat up in high school, but on the other hand you never know what particular brand of unwashed sperglord you might end up having to deal with. Thankfully my experiences at the Steampunk World’s Fair last weekend were overwhelmingly positive – in fact they were good enough to convince both me and the wife to commit to returning to the convention circuit on a more permanent basis.
Attending an entire weekend-long convention can be an exhausting task. Independent of the time it takes to actually travel to where the con is being held you have to deal with two or even three long days of wandering around a crowded venue that’s jam-packed with people of all shapes and sizes. In some instances this can be incredibly uncomfortable; while many of the vendors at Steampunk World’s Fair were set up outside in the parking lot, the lion’s share of them were sequestered in hotel rooms that were stuffed to the gills with all sorts of products for sale. When you combine that with a hot and humid weekend it can quickly become sweltering in those crowded little rooms, especially if you end up bottlenecked near a doorway. However, despite a few mild bouts of claustrophobia caused by a room crowded with vendor wares and stuffed to the gills with convention attendees the majority of my experiences at the World’s Fair were good ones, and while I was bone-tired and had aching feet at the end of every day the fun an excitement easily overrode these small physical details.
However, just perusing the vendors at any convention is only half the fun and the Steampunk World’s Fair was the same way. The sheer number of performers and workshop panels scheduled over the weekend meant having to make hard choices of which panel or musical act you wanted to attend, and the World’s Fair featured an excellent mix of musical acts, sideshow performers, and presenters that there was almost always something to go and do if we got tired of wandering the vendor spaces or ogling other attendees in fantastic costumes. Later on this week I’ll expand on these panels and performances in detail to give them their due. Truth be told the organizers of the convention, Jeff Mach Events, pulled off an amazing schedule of events and presenters that left the majority of other cons I’ve been to in the dust. This isn’t that hard, considering the last time I went to a con was Wizard World East where I got shat on by a pigeon, fell in a pile of soot, and then got caught in a freak rainstorm all in that order. However, that my friends is a tale for another day.