“Everywhere you look you see something different, I love it!”
A common refrain among the crowd pouring through the gates of the Lithgow showgrounds, this year more than ever, the variety and inclusiveness of this thriving festival was on show for all to see and admire.
With nearly twenty thousand tickets sold, it’s the most successful Ironfest to date and I would be shocked if there was one unhappy camper among them. In some cases people were literally camping overnight on the grounds of the event to be even closer to the action. Show me a comic convention that lets you do that!
We went along ostensibly to cover the cosplay competition but naturally got swept up by the spirit of the event and spent hours wandering the grounds enjoying the myriad sights, sounds and smells of Ironfest in all its technicolour glory.
The packed programme guide listed an almost endless cavalcade of things to see from ten am to five pm with a parade signalling the end of each day. I could list the lot here but ironfest.net has them all laid out much neater than I ever could.
Point being that there is never a dull moment and even if you prefer to play it fast and loose there are plenty of acts roving the kingdom, from giant kangaroos to day of the dead performers to a constant stream of steampunked Unicycles and Penny Farthings ridden by gentlemen in period correct Victorian dress.
This year we had a baby Beyond Cosplay staffer, at just over a year old he is yet to write his first article, you will have to wait at least three more years for that but he definitely enjoyed the proceedings and was a huge fan of the petting zoo.
There were plenty of food carts, some even themed appropriately for the event and all serving up delicious hot food at reasonable prices. The longest lines always seemed to stretch away from the Donut truck of course!
We can’t spend all our time talking about the big picture though, time to get to the meat and potatoes of what this writer is all about. Cosplay!
While there were two costume competitions staged at the event we caught the indoor version which was named ‘Cosplay and Costume Competition’ not to be confused with Maree Statham’s ‘Fashion at the Fest’ which was run at almost exactly the same time.
Certainly it would be very difficult to enter both though I spotted at least one or two jog over to the latter just in time to get on stage for a second time.
While one sounds more about fashion, the contestants were just as diverse in both competitions. The winners of both wouldn’t look out of place at any of the bigger cons and would likely place very highly if not win one.
For the record best overall of the Cosplay comp was Envy as an eerily life like Griffon, at the fashion parade it was LJ Schulz from Wolf Lord works cosplay with his amazing 40K Space Marine armour.
The best overall winner for both competitions took home $1000 which is not to be sneezed at considering the grass roots feel of the competition. It really feels like everyone has a chance and is certainly appreciated. At the end of the day though you need to bring something special to the table to take home the big prizes and that was no different in 2017.
My only minor quibble was that both events were held at times that guaranteed some overlap and diluted the potential audience, also the Cosplay comp was held inside an annex within a small hall. Poor lighting and cramped quarters meant the event didn’t quite have the gravitas it deserves but there are talks about moving the location outside next year which if its done right will really elevate the competition to a more deserving arena.
To shed a little more light on that and more we talked to Kitty Fett, a renowned cosplayer herself and Chief organiser of the 2017 Ironfest cosplay competition.
What was the highlight of the weekend for you?
The highlight of the weekend was seeing the Costello family attend the event as we were able to catch up and reminisce about Justin Costello, our fallen hero. Justin was a friend of mine as he was to many in the cosplay and costuming community.
We hold the costume competition in his name as well as our other fallen hero’s name Paul Kerr. It is always so lovely to see how much they are loved by so many. I am so grateful to the Costello family for attending and supporting us and our community, continuing on with Justin’s legacy. We are so lucky to have them help us with the competition!
What, if anything, would you change about how it was run?
We are growing slowly as a competition and as always we have minor bloopers in relation to the comp running smoothly. We always manage to pull together even with the little hiccups and get a great competition out there and have a ball doing it.
We hope to make some minor changes to have the competition to be more out there in the public and more easily accessed by passers by as currently it is in a position where it can only be stumbled upon unless you are entering. We want to encourage people who are attending Ironfest to wonder on by and stop to watch or participate.
Do you see it growing year by year or do you think the hobby has plateaued popularity wise?
We have found the costume competition to get bigger every year which is fantastic. There was always a stigma about people not wanting to ‘cosplay’ at Ironfest as it was regarded as a medieval fair however through encouragement from organisers and people in the cosplay community, we now have a fair few cosplayers attending.
The venue itself is growing immensely and may burst at the seems soon so we may indeed have to move to a bigger better space inside the Kingdom. We couldn’t keep going without the support of fellow costumers and people in the costuming community though.
Our sponsors have assisted us every year with amazing prizes such as cash from Ironfest themselves, prizes donated by Costume N Things, and Demon Kitty, and your very own judges even donate prizes towards the event.
We are also bursting with talent each year with the judging panel. I am lucky enough to be the head judge who selects my fellow judges. This year we had guest judges – the talented Molotov Bailey and Steven Sang, whom are cosplayers in our community who in my opinion are the quiet achievers and I am so grateful for their ability to attend this year and judge their peers.
We also had Nathan Soden back as a judge to represent the Iron and Steampunk side of the competition for the second time in a row! I think we are definitely growing into a highly regarded costume competition!
What would you tell any cosplayers on the fence about heading to next year’s ironfest?
Ironfest is not a medieval fair so to speak, it is a bit of everything which is evident this year. Each year they have a theme and The Lost World was a perfect opportunity for cosplayers to be out in all types of costumes.
We had people from Jurassic Park, Stargate, Star Trek, Indiana Jones and so on walking around all day and in the cosplay competition. I have found there is also a great following for Steampunk which I enjoy dabbling in now and then myself!
It is a great opportunity to get out of the city and smog and get some country air. It is a mostly outdoor event with some interesting stalls and lots of demonstrations in all different locations.
I always enjoy seeing cosplayers having photos with tanks and in epic battles with soldiers from the wars.
If you are looking for something different to what most cons are – a room full of stalls full of people and being cooped up inside all day – come check out Ironfest.
Machine guns firing, exploding canons and gigantic steam trains all in one location. The odd battle of vikings and knights. Some stunning birds of prey flying around and knights and fair maidens demonstrating their skills at arms on horseback and jousting. Did I mention the photo opportunities? Next year’s theme is Wild Wild West. It’s time to cowboy up!
Thanks Kitty, we couldnt have put it any better ourselves so on that note…dig up those riding boots and six shooter. Ironfest 2018 will be here before you know it, the date and theme have already been set, all thats left to do is book your accommodation and plan your cosplay.
Hope to see you there!
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