Every year in Sheffield, Tasmania, history buffs and ‘steampunkers’ gather to enjoy a three-day extravaganza of yesteryear. Steam trains, machinery, old-timey gadgets, demonstrations, entertainment, food and festivities await the attendee who loves all things nostalgic. Sponsored by the Redwater Creek Steam and Heritage Society, the festival raises funds for community projects. It is the largest festival of its kind in all of Australia.
One of the most popular activities at Steamfest is to take a ride on a vintage train, complete with a spirited conductor and the sounds of a good whistle. Children’s train rides on miniature rail are also here to please the little tykes and get their ‘woohoo’ going. Steam engines were the bread and butter of transport long ago and their charm has never faded. The festival showcases both their functionality and artisan appeal in construction and décor. Wood frames and iron fittings dress the carriages that once traversed the Tasmanian landscape. Not to be outdone by modern technology, these trains have stories to tell.
Dressed in a combination of the historic and scientific (or science fiction!), steampunkers put their fashionista best on display during festival days here in Sheffield. Clothing made in 19th-century Victorian style meets futurism in materials and accoutrements to match, accessorised by gadgets and gizmos unique to all things of this bygone era. Inventive and entertaining, steampunkers are a creative and whimsical bunch who really love to get involved in the steam rollin’ atmosphere.
Not only will there be stalls of arts and crafts vendors with homemade décor and gift items, but demonstrations by blacksmiths, tailors, woodcrafters and others which were once the most important forms of skilled labour will be presenting their work. Joining them will be areas where attendees can see how life was managed way back when. Laundry, cooking, spinning, weaving, building and farming are highlighted along with other essential duties of the family. The pioneering lifestyle is alive and well for three days solid at Steamfest!
Performers of folk music and buskers with guitars, accordions and fiddles, vintage cars on display, and children’s shows all add to the theatrics at Steamfest lending spice to an already popular festival. Also featured are a petting zoo, tractor pulls, dress-and-shoot photo booths, a grand parade held daily and prize awards for various categories of Steamfest performers and program participants. Local entertainment along with fairground foods, fresh produce, desserts and drinks make this a truly special occasion not to miss.
Reaching the festival grounds is approximately a 3 hour drive from Hobart or just about 15 minutes from the Devonport Airport if you are flying in from there. Steamfest is held yearly on every long weekend in March. Ticket charges apply for festival entry and are available at www.eventbrite.com. Food, drinks and gifts are available for purchase.