Sun City SteamFest, Part II: The Mastermind
Scroll down to read Part I.
By Oisin McGillion Hughes
As Henry Flores scanned the crowd in Tricky Falls, the light caught the glass in a pair of round, brass-edged goggles that sat astride his black cowboy hat. Flores is used to wearing Old West attire, since his job involves historical and paranormal explorations of El Paso history. But today Flores and the people milling around the downtown music venue were wearing fashions of an alternate past: the era of Steampunk. This is a late-nineteenth-century alternate Earth of steam-powered robots, airships and adventure.
It was Saturday, the second day of the Sun City Steam Fest, and El Paso was hosting a delegation from this parallel world. Flores was proud to welcome them.“This is what happens when people with passion get together and want to build a community.”
Mr. Flores is the president of the Paso Del Norte Paranormal Society and the man who made the Sun City Steamfest a reality. But it’s not something he planned on. “I was working with Visit El Paso, the visitor’s bureau, and they asked me to come up with some events, something that will bring people together. Something different. Unique. Strange. Well,” he smiled, “I’m a ghost hunter. We do that.” So the quest was on for something different.
“We were at the office at San Antonio street and Durango Street and that’s where Locomotive Number One is.” The wood burning steam engine was built in New Jersey in 1857. After a journey of thousands of miles and 157 years, it delivered its cargo of inspiration to Mr. Flores. “I was looking at it. Steam. Steam... Steampunk. Okay, what the heck. Why not?” A quick online search delivered two El Paso Steampunk organizations, The Clockwork Rebellion and Coyote’s Fortune. “Great people. They had wanted to do something, but they didn’t know anybody. We met with them and I said ‘We’ve got to get together, because I need to create an event. Lets do that for Steampunk.”
But just as the gears were starting to move, they jammed up. The city of El Paso took over the planned venue and left the Steampunks without a home. Then the rock and roll cavalry arrived. The group was invited to hold their event at Tricky Falls-for free.
“So we started to combine communities,” said Flores. The Paranormal Society brought some of the vendors from their Dia de los Muertos festival on board and things grew from there. Now it’s Saturday and Steampunk has successfully crossed the membrane between Earths and arrived in El Paso.
On the Tricky Falls stage, two local “crafters”, Jessi Arntz and Nick Ward, are telling an attentive crowd about assembling Steampunk costume and props. By the entrance, a group of local cowboy performers are plotting a dust-up with some Steampunk gunfighters. Members of Mr. Flores’ Paranormal Society mingle with the crowd, having Steampunked their Western wear. And standing with his back on the bar, Henry Flores is taking it all in. He’s hopeful that the Steam Fest will return next year, perhaps on the birthday of Nikola Tesla, one of Steampunk’s patron saints. The future looks bright for the delegation from a past that never was.
You can find more information on the Paranormal Society website.