Steampunk Festival returns to Troy October 25

The Enchanted City, a popular steampunk-themed festival, will return to Troy this month in a new format.

On Friday, October 25, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., The Enchanted City will host its first ever “Fall into Steampunk: The Haunted Hedley” event at the River Street Market, a premiere food hall that opened this summer on the first floor of 433 River Street, a.k.a. the Hedley Building, in Downtown Troy’s Waterfront District.

Photo courtesy of IMZ

“It has always been my plan to host multiple events under The Enchanted City umbrella, and I’m so excited to expand our brand into a new Halloween Party format,” said Sue Dunckel, festival organizer. “I can’t wait to introduce the steampunk community to River Street Market, Troy’s newest place in an ‘old’ space.”

The evening will feature: a Ghastly Ghoul Pageant & Costume Promenade; a Dance Party with DJ Mechno Sferatu; a Frightening Foods Chef Challenge; Absinthe Tastings; a Goblin Market; and Ghost Tours of 433 River Street, led by a descendant of The Brothers Grimm lineage. A few of the now famous “mad machines” that competed in the festival’s previous Inventors Challenge will be on display, including “The Walker,” a Victorian-themed Doctor Octopus-type contraption.

Photo courtesy of IMZ

Admission is free. Dinner, appetizers, shakes, smoothies, wine, beer, coffee and non-alcoholic beverages will be available for purchase at six restaurants in the food hall (Sweet Sue’s Copper Pot, LuKa’s, Hatch Test Kitchen, Prime Burger and Shakehouse, Maria’s Troy, Stacks Espresso Bar).

All ages are encouraged to come dressed in steampunk-themed costumes or as fairies or ghouls.

The steampunk party will happen concurrently with the “Mysteries & Mayhem” themed Troy Night Out, a monthly arts and cultural event that draws thousands to downtown Troy.

“The great thing about holding this event during Troy Night Out is that you can stay here the whole night if you want, but you can also start here and then head out on the town, or you can visit us after other stops downtown,” Dunckel said.

Photo courtesy of IMZ


Starting at 5 p.m., chefs representing each of the six restaurants of River Street Market will compete to prepare the best dish using all of the “frightening” ingredients provided. Each chef will have 25 mins. to whip up a dish to be served to the “royal poison snoopers,” or judges, including Steve Barnes and Deanna Fox. The competition will be M.C.’d by Chef Jaime Ortiz of 677 Prime. (Prime Burger and Shakehouse, one of the River Street Market restaurants, is a satellite project of 677 Prime).

“Since it’s Halloween, our chefs will be working with scary ingredients like ‘mutated’ rooted vegetables and other seconds produce, fish heads, squid ink, kelp, stinky cheeses…. anything British,” said Dunckel, who will join the competition representing her restaurant, Sweet Sue’s Copper Pot.


Starting at 6 p.m. there will be a “Ghastly Ghoul Pageant & Costume Promenade” contest hosted by Upstate New York Cosplay Society in which anyone can join. Two winners will be awarded The Enchanted City’s “Ghastly Ghoul” and “Victorian Vampire Slayer” title for the year, a status that must be defended annually.


Starting at 5:30 p.m., there will be 45 min. “Haunted Hedley” tours led by Denisse Grimm, a descendant of The Brothers Grimm lineage and property manager for First Columbia, owners of 433 River Street (also known as the Hedley Building).

Tourgoers will be given the rare opportunity to see and explore portions of the 1917 factory building, which once housed the Cluett, Peabody & Co., manufacturers of the detachable men’s shirts collars that inspired Troy’s “Collar City” moniker. Highlights of the tour will include a visit to the sub basement which houses historic steam equipment and spooky laboratory from the 1950s.

Along the way, Grimm will share stories of supernatural encounters in the building and even a few photographs of unexplainable entities caught on camera there.

“I feel presences in the building and there are areas I won’t go into alone,” Grimm said. “I have felt a presence on the 9th floor, but when we started construction I don’t feel it there any more. I know its still here in the building, so maybe we’ll meet up again during the tour.”

Photo Courtesy of IMZ


Now in its sixth year, The Enchanted City began as an urban street fair and spectacle of steampunk fashion, fantasy and fabrications that magically transform the historic blocks of downtown Troy, N.Y. into a “cosplay” alternative reality where Victorian fancy meets modern technology. The free fall festival has drawn thousands of participants in previous years, with a family-friendly inspired day of music, magic, games, performance, food and fantasy.

Special events have included a fashion show, historic tours, street performers and peddlers, storytelling, dancing, puppet shows, magic acts and a concert by Steampunk legends “Steam Powered Giraffe.”

This year, for the first time, The Enchanted City will be held indoors, in a spacious premium food hall, and will be follow more closely the format of a large costume party. The change in format and venue are in-part due to business and time constraints of Dunckel, who this year simultaneously renovated a 10,000 square foot building in Troy’s North Central neighborhood while opening her Copper Pot restaurant in the new River Street Market.

Even before she took on those extra projects, The Enchanted City had become too big for one person to manage, she said. A few months ago, Dunckel created an Enchanted City limited liability corporation and took on a new business partner, John Corey, who previously volunteered for the festival.

“Even with the pressing business of my day-to-day life, The Enchanted City remains an integral and important port of my life and my relationship with Troy,” Dunckel said. “This year’s event and location are at the intersection of my business and passion, and I can’t think of a better space to hold this event. This building, with its manufacturing history, is a very steampunk place.”

Dunckel said she and Corey will be making announcements about The Enchanted City and future events.

“We’re not done with The Enchanted City you know and love, but it has to evolve to survive,” Dunckel said, noting that fans should not count out a street festival element returning in the future.

(“Troy, N.Y. is Steampunk”)

Although definitions vary slightly, Steampunk is a genre of science fiction/fantasy that takes place in an alternative 1800s setting in which modern technology like robotics and air travel are powered by Victorian style and sensibilities. It is an alternative “futuristic past.”

The word steampunk was coined by novelist K. W. Jeter, author of “Morlock Night,” a 1979 spinoff to “The Time Machine,” by H.G. Wells.

Steampunk owes a lot of its aesthetic to “The Time Machine,” Dunckel said noting that the Victorian era scenes from the 2002 Hollywood movie “The Time Machine,” were filmed in downtown Troy, N.Y. under the direction of Simon Wells, great-grandson of the original author.

“The neighborhood where The Enchanted City was founded is literally the set for ‘The Time Machine,'” Dunckel said. “It doesn’t get much more steampunk than that. Troy, New York is steampunk.”

Dunckel notes that several major Hollywood movies have used downtown Troy as a filming location, including: “The Age of Innocence” ; “The Bostonians” ; and “Ironweed,” staring steampunk icon Tom Waits.

“What sets The Enchanted City apart from all other steampunk festivals is our authentic 19th century urban setting: Troy, New York,” said Dunckel. “Like Brigadoon, an entire population of steampunk characters materialize once a year in our city and transform the place into living fantasy.“

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