SyFy Bartow Brings In The Bots For Eighth Year
by James Coulter
If Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother magically combined a pumpkin with a tin can and several loose gears, then the Steam Pumpkin would have been the final result.
This metal carriage presents a steampunk take on the classic fairy tale. The rusty pumpkin-shaped coach is covered with countless gears of varying sizes and is pulled along by a robotic RUS (rodent of unusual size).
Stacey Feldman, its inventor from Toronto, spent more than 2,500 hours working on her vehicle, produced with 1,000 pounds of steel and 2,700 rivets. The carriage is driven by the RUS, crafted from a riding mower. As she created her invention during uncertain times, she faced many challenges assembling it.
“Because of COVID, it was hard to find someone who could laser cut my gears at a price that would not completely bankrupt me,” she said.
Stacey brought along her Steam Pumpkin to Florida a month ago for the Steampunk Festival at Mt. Dora, and it will remain in Orlando until April. Until then, she brought along her invention to SyFy Bartow on Saturday.
She loves being able to show off her craftsmanship and offering people rides upon it. No surprise, as it was community support that allowed her to assemble it, she said.
“[I loved] the camaraderie, the community pulling together to help support it making it happen,” she said. “[And I love] the smiles it creates when it is out and about.”
For the eighth consecutive year, SyFy Bartow allowed residents and visitors alike to congregate in Downtown Bartow to share their love of sci-fi, comic books, video games, and all things geek-related.
This year’s theme was “Rise of the Robots”, emphasizingmechanical marvels from Star Wars droids to Doctor Who Daleks. Various cosplayers arrived dressed as famous robot characters from C-3PO to Rosie the Robot Maid. Some vendors showcased life-sized models of characters like Vincent from Disney’s Black Hole and Bender from Futurama.
Aside from robots, countless vendors lined Main Street to showcase their wares and paraphernalia from other popular franchises from sci-fi, comic books, and video games. Attendees could purchase a wand from Harry Potter, a lightsaber from Star Wars, or Pokeballs from Pokemon, among many other curious finds.
Coinciding with the annual outdoor comic book convention was the Classic Car Show. Many cars and vehicles were decorated after popular franchises, including the Tardis from Doctor Who, the DeLorean from Back to the Future, and the Ecto-1 from Ghostbusters.
Sean Serdynski, the event creator and coordinator, was impressed by the turnout. He was initially nervous about the visitors, but he was pleased not only by how many attended this year but how many of them managed to socially distance themselves and wear masks.
“We have hit it out of the park once again,” he said. “We were nervous about the visitors because of the pandemic, and we have hit it out of the ballpark with people who have come to visit us…It is like there are no uncertain times. It is business as usual.”
Sean has hosted the event for the past eight years, and he has high hopes for its future. Not only does he host it to allow people like him to share their love of their favorite movies and comics, but also to help promote local businesses in Downtown Bartow.
Next year’s theme will be “A Galaxy Far, Far Away,” focusingon space-themed sci-fi like Star Wars and Star Trek. Otherwise, he enjoyed this year’s event.
“I loved being able to meet old friends,” he said. “It is like a big family reunion for me. So I get to see a lot of people I don’t get to see throughout the year.”
Attending the event were cosplayers, people who participate in cosplay, or “costume play.” Many were dressed up as famous characters like Deadpool and The Mandalorian. Some even attended with professional and amateur cosplay troupes.
Austin Peagler is a member of the Guardian of Justice. A local non-profit group that dresses up as costumed characters and visits children in hospitals. Of course, during these uncertain times, such visits have been less frequent, but they are looking forward to visiting again when times are safer.
Austin has dressed up as many characters like Deadpool, Joker, Watchman’s Rorschach, and the Goblin King from Labyrinth. He attended SyFy Bartow that day dressed as a Ghostbuster.
“We come up every year,” he said. “We love to support all of the businesses here walking around. It is a good turnout. Everyone seems to be happy. No one is upset. It is going well.”