If you’ve ever envied the dress of Victorian women or wish you could hear Edgar Allen Poe read his poetry to you himself, you just might be in luck. Cortland County is debuting Gears to Corsets, the area’s first-ever steampunk festival, from Sept. 27-29, running from 10 a.m.-8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and from 10 a.m.-3:30 p.m. on Sunday.
Steampunk is a blend of Victorian fashion with the addition of more modern gears and clocks, giving the style an interesting twist. Set throughout Cortland County, this cosplay-encouraged festival is being held at four different local historic buildings: the CNY Living History Center, the 1890 House, the Corset Building and the Cortland Historical Society.
“We created a festival using the natural backdrop of the city, while also bringing the costume element into play,” said Crystal Lion, a local artist and designer for the event. “We’re kind of playing on the historical roots of the city to play a role in the overall look of everything. It’ll be really fun to see people in period costume that has that Victorian-steampunk-fantasy twist to kind of rejuvenate the town a little bit by honoring the roots.”
Unlike other festivals along the east coast, Gears to Corsets takes place at different historical buildings in Cortland County, instead of the entire festival being held in one place. Former Director of the 1890 House, Benjamin Sandberg, brought the idea to the Cortland Convention and Visitor’s Bureau after visiting a steampunk festival in Pennsylvania. After seeing such a festival in action, he believed that Cortland would be the perfect backdrop for such an event, given the industrial history of the county. Cortland County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau Executive Director Meghan Lawton said she hopes the more spread-out layout of the festival will provide better historical context for the event, encouraging newcomers to really travel throughout the county.
“It really harkens to our industrial history, [Cortland County] has such a rich industrial history,” said Lawton. “We’re envisioning it as a mini kind of Disney World in that we have multiple locations with vendors, events and different activities throughout the county.”
To provide transportation to the different locations, Lawton said that Cortland Transit is providing free shuttle buses to the different locations to help newcomers navigate the area. These shuttle bus rides will also feature actors in period dress, providing riders with interesting historical facts about Cortland County as they travel from location to location and bringing the entire county into play.
“I’m really excited about this because I think it’s really hard to navigate an area that you might not be familiar with,” said Tina Minervini, a co-owner of the Cinch Art Space, located in the Corset building. “I think that the idea is making this as easy as possible for people.”
The festival will feature paint and sips, corset-making classes, historic movie showings, and opportunities to take photos with some iconic historic figures like Samuel Clemens (or Mark Twain) and Edgar Allen Poe. The festival will also feature a variety of local artists and craft beverage vendors at the different locations and events.
“The entire festival is pretty unique because each location got to figure out how they specifically tie into the steampunk theme and then go from there,” said Lawton. “So there are lots of different things happening, depending on which location you’re at at the moment.”
Come in period dress, and you’ll get some additional perks. According to the festival’s website, different restaurants in the area plan to feature steampunk-themed cocktails, and if you’re dressed for the era, you’ll get a discount on your meal. Some events are free, while others require registration before showing up, so visit the Gears to Corsets website for a full list of events.