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'This is bittersweet': Steampunk Festival pulls out of Coldwater

'We can’t take it any farther than we already have,' says chair and co-founder of popular Steampunk Festival that won't return in 2023
Chair of The Coldwater Steampunk Festival Suzy Burtenshaw stands in between two creative and committed Coldwater Steampunk Festival participants at the 2022 event.

The organizers of the popular Coldwater Steampunk Festival are taking a bow and passing the torch to new communities. 

Suzy Burtenshaw, co-founder and chair of the festival that started in 2011, says she feels the festival has reached the pinnacle of what it can be.

“After a dozen years we would need fresh volunteers, fresh ideas, and fresh younger people,” she explained. “We can’t take it any farther than we already have.”

Burtenshaw, 56, says it’s important to end the festival on a positive note. She hopes “the complete and total celebration of culture” has inspired a whole new generation of people.

“We hope we’ve inspired people to go on to support youth in the arts and the arts in general in their own way that is relevant to their generation,” she said. “That has already taken place with the Sawbones Society who have created their award-winning YouTube series.”

This past summer, the Coldwater Steampunk Festival featured a hot air balloon, 150 vendors and a vibe that attracted thousands to the village. 

“I can’t keep doing that every year as an individual citizen,” Burtenshaw admits. “That’s the reality of it.”

Burtenshaw says the Coldwater Steampunk Festival took on a life of its own because of the popularity of cosplay.

“We have been the longest-running steampunk event in Canada,” she said, with pride. “It started as an idea to bring tourism to Coldwater and exploded into a celebration of the arts including costume arts.”

The Coldwater Business Improvement Area will continue the Harry Potter-inspired portion of the Steampunk Festival called The Magical World of Witchcraft & Wizardry, which will take place on Aug. 12.

This year, two new Steampunk festivals will take place in Cayuga and Fergus, both of which were inspired by the Coldwater festival.

“Steampunks like to travel around,” Burtenshaw explained. “It’s a new town, new things to see, new vendors, new artists, and everybody puts on a Steampunk Festival a little differently.”

Burtenshaw encourages everyone who loved the Coldwater festival to support the new festivals because they help local artists and businesses stay afloat.

“We showed how important that is,” she said. “At the end of last year, I had a vendor say that the event saved their shop because they made $4,000 that day.”

 As for the newly retired Burtenshaw, who invested untold time and effort into the festival year-round, she will now be spending more time with her grandchildren.

“This is bittersweet,” she said. “I’d like to write a book about it because it was such a phenomenon.”

Maybe one day, the Coldwater Steampunk Festival will return for a reunion event, Burtenshaw says. But, for now, the torch is being handed to other communities.

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Tyler Evans

About the Author: Tyler Evans

Tyler Evans got his start in the news business when he was just 15-years-old and now serves as a video producer and reporter with OrilliaMatters
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