Steampunk Spectacular

steampunk festival to foster creative expression

Eric Christenson

FEELING STEAMY, PUNK? Above: Some great examples of steampunk style you might see at the LogJam.
FEELING STEAMY, PUNK? Above: Some great examples of steampunk style you might
see at the LogJam.

What began as a subgenre of science fiction has turned into a cultural creativity movement called steampunk. Steampunk envisions a future that incorporates themes from the Victorian Era or the Wild West and reinterprets them as though all technology was powered by steam.

It’s a high concept, but regular people use that idea to gather in the name of creativity and self-expression – people dress up in intricate costumes, work together, and dive headfirst into developed characters. And now with the Chippewa Valley LogJam, the spirit of steampunk is coming to Eagle Ridge (the Chippewa Falls spot where Renaissance fairs and the Village of Terror used to happen) in a big way.

“ ... we’ll have horses and a mechanical bull but the steampunk element allows us to have time travelers, so we’ll have the Tardis from Doctor Who, we’ll have the Delorean from Back To The Future.” – Julie Pangallo, organizer of the Chippewa Valley LogJam

“On the whole, the LogJam is about diversity,” said Julie Pangallo, the event’s organizer. “The backstory is there’s a huge logjam in the Chippewa River, so everyone’s caught in this little town (Eagle Ridge), and there’s a crack in the time-space continuum so people from different cultures and different time periods are stuck here together. So they have to work together to fix the logjam before it floods the town.”

Now, that’s only a part of it. For a lot of people, the event has enough other stuff to appeal to those not already keyed in to the trappings of steampunk.

“Everybody knows what a Wild West show looks like, so we’ll have horses and a mechanical bull, but the steampunk element allows us to have time travelers, so we’ll have the Tardis from Doctor Who, we’ll have the Delorean from Back To The Future,” Pangallo said. “There’s gonna be a cornucopia of things going on.”

Pangallo said LogJam aims to be inclusive, but she also wants the festival to pull together a local steampunk scene, one that she said is a bit fractured. Ideally, the LogJam would not only pull together steampunk enthusiasts from around here, but also from places like Madison or Chicago, where scenes are thriving. Pangallo wants to give local steampunks a home base.

“There’s a broad spectrum of ways to express yourself,” she said.

The LogJam runs the first three weekends in June and includes a massive artisan market where people can sell costumes and art (everything from stained glass to pottery to wood carvings), Texas Hold ‘Em and poker challenges, a petting zoo, pony rides, live music, lumberjack games, and horse demonstrations including a Parade of Breeds.

In keeping with the spirit of steampunk, the LogJam is certainly gearing up for a big first year with tons of creative expression and an expanse of unique things to watch and interact with.

“You can express yourself is so many different ways. A steampunk female can be a version of a can-can girl or she can be a heroine,” Pangallo said. “There’s a broad spectrum of ways to express yourself.”

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