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BLOOMINGTON — Fantasy, history and future collided in downtown Bloomington on Saturday.

“Steampunk is a sub-genre of science fiction that twists the Victorian aesthetic with an alternate history,” said Cathy Sutliff of Bloomington, a co-chair of the event.

In a steampunk world, organizers said, vehicles would run on steam, antiques would be repurposed instead of replaced and teleportation would be a possibility.

The women wore bustled skirts and accessories adorned with chains and cogs as they browsed a market set up on downtown streets.

“This is great. It’s something fun to do as mom and daughter. We like having a good time, dressing up and getting creative. You meet a lot of amazing people in this community,” said Krista Carver.

For many, the costumes are the main appeal.

“I like all of the antiques and looking at everyone’s outfits. You see so many nice hats and goggles. People get so creative,” said 10-year-old Nora Krone of Peoria, who attended with her mom Becky.

Diane Sutliff of Chicago earned an award in the adult costume category for her handiwork. The skirt of her dress was made from several tablecloths, the bodice was a remodeled vest and a leather belt acted as a catch-all for many vintage trinkets.

“Everyone still has that innate, child-like desire to dress up and pretend. This is a good excuse for people of all ages to have fun and know it’s OK to be goofy,” said Diane Sutliff, who is Cathy's sister.

Having attended several larger steampunk events in the past, Diane Sutliff said the Bloomington festival has a unique style because it isn’t held in an arena. Instead, it meshes with the historic feel of downtown Bloomington with several events hosted inside the McLean County Museum of History.

“Because it’s held outside, you have regular people mixing with the steampunk crowd. People who came to the farmers market this morning to buy rutabagas didn’t expect to see us, but it turned into this bigger, permeable connection with the community,” she said.

A large crowd gathered to watch Carnival Epsilon performers, teapot racing and a fashion show on the square.

At The Stashe salon, co-owner Tami Schmidgall judged a beard and mustache contest. Gary Boner and Nick McCarthy, both of Springfield, tied for their impressive whiskers.

Boner drove a modified, four-wheeled bicycle through the streets.

“I’m attracted to steampunk because I have a lot of junk in my garage so I started assembling it and turning it into weird stuff,” he said. “It has a cool, creative element.”

Continuing Sunday is the steampunk market from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., activities at the museum from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and a mini top hat craft at Half Hazard Press at 11:30 a.m. Additional events are listed at

Contact Julia Evelsizer at (309) 820-3254. Follow her on Twitter: @pg_evelsizer


Public Safety Reporter

Public safety reporter for The Pantagraph.

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