Behind the curtain at the Steampunk World’s Fair: the Erin Goss interview

The Steampunk World's FairAs part of my continuing coverage of my trip to the Steampunk World’s Fair last weekend, I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Erin Goss, the Customer Service Manager and Vendor Coordinator for Jeff Mach Events. Thanks to the fact that she and my wife are very close friends, Erin was gracious enough to permit me to pick her brain a bit about what it’s like putting together such a massive convention. Here’s an in-depth look “behind the curtain” at not just the Fair but other JME events that Erin has worked over the years.

Amateur Professional:  Hi Erin! Thanks so much for taking the time out of your hectic schedule to meet with me. I understand you’ve been working for Jeff Mach Events for several years now as a customer service manager. What kind of things are you responsible for on a day-to-day basis?

Erin Goss:  Customer Service is only one of my many hats in the company. As Customer Service, I interact with our ticket buyers, answer emails, and help people answer questions they may have about our events. I’m also the Vendor Coordinator, which lands the daunting task of curating and placing our eclectic and wonderful selection of very talented vendors throughout the Fair.

AP:  That sounds like an incredible amount of responsibility. How did you become involved with Jeff Mach Events and what drew you to it as a carer choice? Is this something you specifically went to school for or did you sort of just fall into the position?

EG:  So, once upon a time, I tried out for a play called Seeds. It was a retelling of Persephone and Hades- I ended up being Demeter. Jeff [Mach, owner of JME] was the author, and we struck up a friendship. He invited me to a one-day event called “The Anachronism” held in New York City. I walked in and he was trying to do seventeen things. I offered to do sixteen of them, and 4 years and multiple job titles later, here I am!

AP: Amazing how seemingly innocuous connections like that can lead to big things like that. So, most of my readers are familiar with the different SF/Fantasy/gaming genres and events like conventions. For those that aren’t, could you explain the Steampunk World’s Fair in a few sentences?

EG:  I’ve heard Steampunk itself described as everything from “An Alternate Victorian History” to “It’s what happened when the Goths discovered the color Brown.” We deserve all of those varied responses- we’re absolutely delighted to be called “The Everyone’s Steampunk Fair.” If you can join us, we’re happy to have you!

AP:  Well judging from this year’s turn out, I think you had several thousand new friends roaming the hotel! Running even just a small-size event is undoubtedly an incredible logistical nightmare. Larger scale events like Steampunk World’s Fair and Wicked Faire [which is typically held in February every year] must be overwhelming. How hectic is it in the weeks leading up to and then during a major convention?

EG:  Hectic is only the tip of the iceberg! Final arrangements, packing, setup… there’s so much to do, it’s pretty crazy. Luckily, our staff is very cohesive and good friends- we band together and stand together! One of the great reliefs upon arriving at the site of the event is greeting my coworkers and knowing they’ve got my back!

AP:  I definitely saw first-hand how cohesive your staff was at the event – it was more like a family than a job; I’m sure part of being involved in a company that hosts niche subculture events must bring staff very close together. I’m sure it also exposes you to many situations and people that are undoubtedly offbeat and quirky. What’s your favorite or most noteworthy anecdote involving an event you’ve worked on for JME?

EG:  Stories are one thing I have by the dozen! One of my favorites has to be from while we were planning one year’s Fair, and we were in a meeting with the General Manager of the Radisson Hotel [in Piscataway New Jersey]. We were making sure that he would be okay with the 10pm performance time of Emperor Norton’s Stationary Marching Band– who, by the way, aren’t terribly stationary all the time. He said “I don’t care if it’s 2 am, and you’ve lit them on fire, and marched them through my lobby! Just make sure they sound good!”

AP:  I guess they liked it, considering that JME holds many of its events in that same hotel! This has been a fantastic interview so far, Erin – so thank you for taking time out of your schedule to chat with me. Finally, what would you say to someone who might be reticent to come out and give the Steampunk World’s Fair – or any other JME events – a try?

EG:  This is an event built by a company that specializes in making playgrounds for people. We have everything from Steampunk Music to Opera Singers to ball pits and dueling lessons. We’d love to show you what you can do.

Has your curiosity been piqued? JME is also hosting International Steampunk City in Morristown, NJ from October 11th to the 12th.

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