LAFAYETTE — The top hat adorning Jezebel Lobelia’s head had a gear-shaped object perched atop it, and she wore a corset with a billowing lace dress. By her side was Christopher Slim, smartly attired in blazer, bow tie and pinstripe pants, with a holster holding a plastic toy gun on his hip.
The two wouldn’t be out of place in Victorian-era London or in the Wild West. But this was Saturday, and they were in downtown Lafayette for a special occasion — that being the second-annual Steampunk & Makers Fair.
Part dress-up, part music festival and part science fair, it looks on the surface like a hodgepodge of events. There’s facial hair competition, a crafts sale, a showcase of different museum exhibits, belly dancing performances and it’s a setting for other bizarre and seemingly unrelated activities.
But at its core, Lafayette’s Steampunk & Makers Fair celebrates the creative mind.
“Every bit of this is a reflection of our community and how unique our community is,” said Kevin Krantz, the administrator of the Lafayette Science Museum, one of the sponsors of the festival. “Just like the music and the food, the science and the presentation of science is just as unique, if not more so. As you see reflected today, this show runs the gamut from the spectacular to the practical.”
And, indeed, the spectacular was in full force. People dressed in steampunk attire in Lafayette’s Parc Sans Souci — an aesthetic inspired by 19th-century industrialism, including gears and machinery, mixed with a bit of fantasy.
Just a block away, the practical was on display in Lafayette’s Science Museum. At its front entrance, perhaps best exemplifying the theme of the festival, was a Creole rowing skiff designed by local artist Leo Touchet entirely from memory.
The boat itself was innovative in that, unlike other types of rowboats, one would steer standing up and facing the direction they were traveling in. In most cases, a person would have to sit backward to steer a rowboat.
“Mr. Touchet has done an excellent job of bringing the past forward, connecting imagination with a tangible product,” Krantz said. “And he’s connected all of that without even trying. So this festival celebrates people like him and people with that boundless spirit.”
The museum celebrated other creators in the community, including a workshop later in the day that paired high school students with industrial design majors from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette to pitch projects and ideas to different community leaders.
“The goal of this festival is absolutely to inspire creativity, but secondly, to show off the science that exists in this town. Folks don’t have to go very far to see the spectacular and to witness great science. It’s right here in our backyard,” Krantz said.
Elsewhere, the community’s creativity was on display in the costumes like Lobelia’s and Slim’s.
“The steampunk part of it is really cool because what it looks at is where art and science meet,” Krantz said, noting that it adds a little bit of extra spice to the events.
Lobelia and Slim said they constructed their costumes from items they already owned as well as pieces they had to make specifically for their steampunk aesthetic.
“I love Victorian fashion, and then I love the mechanical pieces that go along with it — the futuristic ideals, the retro futurist thing,” Lobelia said about her costume.
“(I’m) all about retro futurism,” Slim added.