Ironfest is a wonderful concoction combining so many geeky things in one place that it’s hard to know where to look.
There’s a foundation of blacksmithing and metalwork, taken together with a generous dollop of historical re-enactment. Mostly it’s Napoleonic War era French and British soldiers and much of the day is spent against the background smell of gunpowder from the guns and muskets going off all over the place. But there are also a fair few knights, some Samurai, a smattering of ninja and I also noticed a single Greek swordsman wandering about (and looking very cold).
The grounds are full of people strolling around in great steampunk outfits carrying the most amazing, detailed guns and swords: There aren’t many places where you can see so many goggles and pith helmets these days. The real steam is represented with a couple of huge steam engines.
Then there was the chance to try out archery – either shooting at targets or at plastic animals. You can make chain-mail and try on armour. If you are a kid you could go to knight school; which was largely a chance for an organised melee.
The big set-piece events are the Battle of Lithgow, which gives the re-enactors a chance to strut their stuff, and the jousting. There’s certainly something impressive in seeing fully armoured knights thundering towards each other wielding lances. There’s a professional jousting circuit so these people really know what they are doing and how to put on a good show.
Inside the big hall, daleks and K-9 wander about rubbing shoulders with Star Wars Stormtroopers and belly dancers. You can buy handmade knives, celtic jewellery and steampunk arm-held rocket launchers. Everywhere you look there are people dressed up and having a good time. Families wander past tattooed bikies; the ambulance officer is on stilts; half the visitors have swords or guns on their hips. It is sheer joy.
Really Ironfest is just that – a joy. It doesn’t really matter if you don’t see yourself as being into any individual activity, there’s so much going on that if you just step back and approach it all with goodwill you can’t help but be entertained. And if you are into the sorts of things being displayed then it just raises a smile, if not a full-on laugh.