Event: Elfia (formerly known as Elf Fantasy Fair) Arcen
When: September 14 – 15
What: Fantasy fair with added steampunk flair
Where: Castle gardens – Arcen – The Netherlands
Ticket price: varied, depending on the formula
This latest edition of Elfia Arcen, themed Dragons & Hobbits, once again took place on the beautiful grounds of the Dutch Arcen castle. Despite of the weather not being as good as anyone had hoped, masses of costumed and regular dressed guessed braved the wind, occassional rain and mud for a fun fantasy weekend.
Even though Elfia profiles itself as a fantasy fair, it has long outgrown just that aspect and offers a wide variety of things aside from their main genre, as it has done for several years. And whilst Arcen is generally seen as the smaller sister of the better known Elfia Haarzuilens which traditionally takes place in April, it is definitely not inferior to the elder event, quite on the contrary. Where Haarzuilens is clearly just getting along on it’s name alone without doing any proper effort to be a properly good event, Arcen tries it’s best, and largely succeeds, to present the visitor with not only a wide variety of things to see and do, but also with a fun and friendly atmosphere one hopes to encounter when attending a pricier event.
The grounds of Arcen castle are beautiful and diverse, ranging from traditional rose gardens to dark and almost Gothic corridors and walkways, all kinds of forest areas, Victorian pond areas and terraces to several kinds of oriental gardens.
They even have some lovely animal areas with storks, cormorants and even squirrel monkeys around and for the children a nice playground, which was sadly not the best place to be in this weather.
Aside from all the outdoors beauty there is also a fabulous indoors greenhouse garden with a large koi pond.
You can see koi fish swim throughout all the streams in the compound, but it seems that the largest group had congregated inside, which is unsurprising if you consider there was a 20 cent fish food dispenser available and plenty of people were happy to spend some coins to present the colourful fish with dinner.
Bringing an underwater camera has it’s advantages.
Traditionally that same greenhouse is also the Sci-fi Deck, where all kinds of science fiction fandoms congregate, with the Star Wars crowds the best represented but definitely not the only ones. It was especially nice to see how several costumers had given their own twist to the stormtrooper armour and how they weren’t just all clones from each other like you see at Belgian events.
The Wicked Unique Troopster
For the fans of J-culture and the orient there was the Oriental Spheres area, and aside from that there was the Steampunk Zone with both The Steampunk Objective and Steampunk Expeditions Gesellschaft, a pirate camp, Hobbit Parc, and much, much, more to not only see but also participate at.
The Steampunk Zone for this event was rather smaller than the area they occupied last year, but that didn’t stop the members from both groups to do their utmost to entertain visitors stopping by or displaying a variety of steampunk props.
It weren’t just other steampunks that stopped by to fuel the ranks, but plenty of others came to have a look and find out more about the movement, or to stop by and admire the many things on display.
Saturday’s steampunk group shot
The drizzle from the fountain behind them made that they certainly didn’t have the best spot on the event, but they made up by it by organising a Steam Walk, taking steampunk through the entire event en masse and reaching people that didn’t want to stop at the permanently “rainy” area.
With the size of the compound it seems like a bad choice to me personally to have placed the Steampunk Zone next to the lake. Gorgeous as that lake it, it is also home to a great big fountain. Which is also beautiful to behold, but with a little wind provides a constant drizzle, which is just a bit dreary. Surely they would have been better placed on one of the fields where all their issues would have been the mud. Frankly that entire area is best left alone or used as a picnic field when the weather is nice. Or a nice set-up of a large restaurant tent with front opening towards the road or something.
Aside from the actual stages, there were musicians, storytellers and parades spread throughout the entire event, either on little stages or roaming the grounds, entertaining visitors that preferred to be on the move rather than spend prolonged times near the stages. And aside from all of that there were various workshops from dance to fire breathing and lots in between, lectures and a costume competition to participate in.
As usual a large field was the centre of the event, where most of the food and drink stands were gathered as well as a fair deal of the shops. Where in lovely weather this would have been an awesome area, due to the mud and occasional bouts of rain (which thankfully were few and far between and didn’t last long) most people enjoying a bite or drink had fled and huddled together under the tents. Thankfully these were many and provided covered seating to a fair amount of people.
And the weather brings me to the one major downside to the event: the mud.
Of course the organisation isn’t responsible for whether it’ll be nice out or rubbish outside, but that doesn’t mean they could have foreseen this and made moving about a little more comfortable. Whilst all the main roads are definitely the kind of walkway that can withstand heavy rains, the fields very quickly become a muddy mess. And whilst the organisation did their best to provide narrow walkways right outside the stands, this just wasn’t enough. You can’t expect literally hundreds of people to properly move over little improvised roads that were just a meter or meter and half wide. Surely they could have build wider ones to avoid forcing others into the mud because people will be people and they will stop and clog up the area to talk. Plus sometimes they just had to stop to be able to see what a shop was selling or wait a little to get into the larger shops. So please, wider improvised roads on the fields next time and the event will be absolutely brilliant.
Muddy inconvenience aside, Elfia Arcen was a fantastic event to attend. Visitors were friendly, and those not wearing costumes were very open minded and accepting to those that did, a sharp contrast to many events in Belgium.
The general atmosphere was fantastic, and there was so much to see or do there was something for everyone, making this one of the best events of 2013 so far.
I would definitely recommend it to all ‘punks out there, because it’s a great place to meet up with fellow enthusiasts and meet more people in the movement, as well as to experience a brilliant event in general.
Photography by Hilde Heyvaert and Bert Van den Wyngaert.
No photos may be used without express permission of the photographers.
More photos of the event can be found here.