ERROR: Macro sectionTag is missing! Brass Screw Confederacy gathering steam in Port Townsend -- Port Angeles Port Townsend Sequim Forks Jefferson County Clallam County Olympic Peninsula Daily news
Brass Screw Confederacy gathering steam in Port Townsend
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Olympic Steam director Nathan Barnett talks about the upcoming steampunk festival at a Main Street breakfast on Wednesday as Debi Goetz listens. Charlie Bermant/Peninsula Daily News

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND — Three years ago, a group of people sought to create a compelling steampunk experience in Port Townsend.

This year, the event will be the largest such gathering in the Pacific Northwest.

“While it’s sad that Steamcon closed down, it provides an exciting opportunity for us,” said Nathan Barnett, president of Olympic Steam, which will put on the Brass Screw Confederacy on June 6-8.

“It means that 3,000 people are looking for a new home.”

Barnett addressed about 50 people Wednesday morning during Main Street’s quarterly merchant breakfast at The Public House, 1038 Water St.

Steamcon, which had operated in Bellevue for five years, shut down in late 2013 after accumulating too much debt for it to continue.

It’s not likely that the Port Townsend festival could accommodate 3,000 people at the Brass Screw Confederacy, as the previous events drew only a few hundred, Barnett said.

But the Port Townsend event has earned its place in the series of local festivals that occur from March to October, he added.

“Steampunk is a natural fit with Port Townsend,” said Mari Mullen, Main Street executive director.

“Our historic seaport setting and authentic atmosphere is perfect with this niche audience, which includes passionate, artistic people who love to reimagine themselves, dress with a Victorian twist and immerse themselves in a fantasy world somewhere between 1870 and the future,” she added.

Olympic Steam sponsors both the Brass Screw Confederacy and March’s Victorian Heritage Festival, which Barnett said was “successful beyond our wildest dreams. We had twice as many people as we expected.”

Organizers now are recruiting sponsors and volunteers for the June event through the website www.brass-screw.org.

Downtown merchants also need to start thinking about building elaborate window displays, which are the highlight of the festival, Barnett said.

“We want to show people how amazing Port Townsend is, with Victorian history, arts and a weird, wacky culture,” Barnett said.

When it comes to the Brass Screw, organizers are betting that the third time will provide a charming experience.

“The first year was an accidental success. Last year, there were some missteps,” said organizer Lorilee Houston.

“Some of the location stuff didn’t work, but we have that fixed for this year, and we will get a bigger crowd,” she added.

Houston said one of the differences this year will be an effort to include more young people. Previous gatherings were in liquor-oriented venues.

“This year, we’ll have our Saturday night event at Fort Worden, and we’ll have a whole range of activities that kids can enjoy,” she said.

That will include a fashion show, a card game and a tactical croquet tournament that Barnett characterizes as “Putt-Putt golf meets croquet meets Alice in Wonderland.”

Will the tournament have rules?

“I think it will be made up,” Houston said.

Unlike other festivals, there will be no parade.

“We will have more of a promenade,” Barnett said.

“With steampunk, the participants are the event.

“We just put them on the street and let them carry the day.”

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Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or cbermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: April 03. 2014 7:02PM
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