Are we really defined by being a festival, and not a convention? For me, the answer’s yes.
I do love conventions. But think about conventions. Trade shows are conventions. Academia has conventions. Your corporate job probably has, or attends, conventions. I happen to enjoy all of those things. They’re not bad things. BUT…
Think about what it means to be a festival. Let’s try this on a few ideas, and see how they sound:
Music Festival versus Music Convention. Now, I’m a musician. A music convention sounds exciting to me; I can learn great things, I can buy a new pickup for my guitar, I can talk shop with other musicians. I’d enjoy going. But it’s not a Music Festival. At a music festival, I’d sing all day and dance all night and spend the whole time rocking out. (That’s even if it was a classical musical festival; you can ABSOLUTELY mosh to Mozart.)
Renaissance Festival versus Renaissance Convention. I’m biased, I’ve never been to a Renaissance Convention. But I picture it as very scholarly, with lots of talks about the Renaissance, its historic origins, its affects on modern life, its lessons, and how we might look at that time period. All of which is cool; I’d be into that.
But I’m still more likely to buy tickets to a Renaissance Festival, where I can throw my kilt on, buckle on my sword, quaff mead, eat giant turkey legs, and mosh to some wicked lute playing.
Steampunk Festival versus Steampunk Convention. I’ll be fair: In practice, people don’t really make a distinction; the first Steampunk events were called “Conventions”, presumably after the Science Fiction Conventions after which they were modeled, and now all Steampunk events, including mine, get listed as cons. And we probably are closer to the audiences of, say, a science fiction convention-listing website than a music-festival website. But our spirit is absolutely wild, high-spirited, exciting, full of entertainment and joyous experiences! We don’t like being called a Convention; we love Conventions; but we’re a Festival through and through.
A polite festival, though. All of our moshing is extremely mild-mannered. We are, after all, Steampunk.
Jeff Mach runs Jeff Mach Events, which in turn runs the world’s largest Steampunk event, The Steampunk World’s Fair; the peculiar Faerie festival Glimmerdark, and co-runs Dark Side Of The Con (with VampireFreaks). He’s on Twitter @steamworldsfair.