It’s as urban as anything gets. So urban it’s dystopian: steam, gears, corsets, vintage hats, goggles and other elements collide with everything gadgets to make a futuristic and, yet, retro world that’s both fun to visit and a little scary to ponder. Mix all of it up with about a dozen fun things to do on a Saturday beneath an Interstate overpass and hundreds of people show up ready for a party.
Launched by Paulk and Company with the inestimable vision of Virginia Adams and the quirky inventiveness of Justin Paulk (his flying Gatling gun was a big hit), this rendition held something for everyone. Vendors lined every side of the site offering everything from food and conventional art to art tailored more for the Steampunk aesthetic. Vendors also included robotics demonstrations from the L&N Stem School. Vagabond Boutique was on hand as well as piercers and tattoo artists.
Hoopers taught the finer arts of hooping for children and adults. Artists painting on canvas and on the side of the Paulk and Company building. Dancers, musicians and aerial acrobatics performed on the stage. A monster roamed about the grounds as did stilt walkers – who also attempted hooping while on stilts.
Then there contests: best-dressed child, best-dressed grouping and simply best-dressed. Underscoring the importance of these contests is the effort involved in many of the costumes. It’s serious business and it forms the core of the day: seeing and being seen. The best costumes – and some of those present would not likely want them called costumes – are assembled gradually over months or years. Expense can be great as the costume incorporates complex gadgets as props. Dozens of hours can easily be poured into perfecting a unique look. It’s not something that might easily be picked up at a local Knoxville Walmart.
The event was child-friendly and many children enjoyed it – some decked out in steampunk attire and others just dressed in Saturday play clothes. For a child, what’s not to like about roaming monsters, stilt walkers, robots, fencing and steampunk story-time?
Obviously, the pictures are more important than words for this story, so I’ve gone with photographs for most of the space. You’ll find another fifty or so photographs here the Inside of Knoxville Facebook Page. The event is simply too big for a single post. Bigness was a theme to this year’s edition – the entertainment expanded, the footprint of the festival expanded and the hours expanded. I will anticipate the changes in next year’s carnivale and who knows? The energy from the event might just compel me to add a gear or two to my little urban hat.