Meet history and fantasy, Zumba with a comic book villainess at Kewaunee cosplay festival
KEWAUNEE – Chat with Teddy Roosevelt. Or Spider-Man.
Hear from a woman accused of witchcraft in Salem.
Even exercise with Harley Quinn.
Times of Future Past gives visitors the chance to do all of the above, and more, when it returns to Kewaunee this weekend for a second straight year.
The event is a cosplay festival for all ages, with characters not just from the worlds of comic books and fantasy but also from history giving shows and strolling the grounds. It's also a charitable festival, with part of the proceeds benefiting the Fox Valley chapter of Desert Veterans of Wisconsin.
If you don't know or weren't at last year's festival to find out firsthand, cosplay is shorthand for "costumed play." People dress in costumes, usually to depict a specific character, and engage with other cosplayers and the public on social media and at festivals and gatherings such as this.
And, while cosplay commonly is associated with sci fi or superhero characters, historical characters are part of the genre as well. Thus, Times of Future Past visitors can interact, and have photos taken, with actors playing real-life people from the past, cartoon characters, characters from the future and anyone in between. And there's the chance those characters from vastly different periods of time will interact with each other.
That's what makes this festival cool to Lynne Melssen, event founder, co-producer and self-described "history nerd." That, and the fact that while most cosplay events are held in arenas and convention centers, this one takes place among the trees and (hopefully) blues skies of the park.
"(Visitors) can expect a totally unique event, an event that combines history and fantasy," Melssen said. "We consider ourselves a very welcoming event for all kinds of people, all ages of people. As far as we know, nobody else is doing cosplay outside, nobody else is combining cosplay with history and fantasy. It's a truly unique event where you can see so many things together."
Guests also are encouraged to get into costume themselves. The festival holds a costume contest at 1 p.m. each day (sign up between 10 a.m. and noon), with prizes awarded for first through third places in two categories: Historic/Steampunk (the latter a mash-up of period-correct outfits, often Victorian, with modern flair and technology) and Fantasy/Sci Fi/Anime.
And who knows, festival goers arriving in costume might find themselves with a job. Melssen said during last year's event, she was called to the admission gate to meet a man dressed as, and acting like, Benjamin Franklin. She talked with the man, Terry Kutz, and was so impressed by not just his look but also his knowledge of colonial America that she booked him to portray the American patriot twice a day on the festival's History Stage inside the park's cabin this year.
The Franklin character is one of the new featured offerings at this year's festival. Also new to the History Stage is "Goode Rebeka and the Salem Witch Trials," based on the story of a Rebeka Nurse, a real-life woman who faced trial during the infamous witch hunts in colonial Salem, Massachusetts, in the late 1600s. Jessica Michna, recipient of the Presidential Service Centers Distinguished Service Award for her portrayals of first ladies and other noteworthy females through American history, plays Rebeka (the "Goode" in the name, pronounced "goodie," is a title of the time similar to Mrs.).
A chimera, a mythical lion/goat/serpent creature, and a living statue of iconic World War II poster woman Rosie the Riveter will be new to the Snapshots in Time stage, where guests can have photo ops and speak with it, Teddy Roosevelt, King Arthur, suffragette Lady Amelia, Spider-Man, Data of "Star Trek" and a "Star Wars" bounty hunter.
Melssen is especially excited about this year's Living History area, which she said will offer presentations covering from America in the 1700s through World War II. A Thomas Edison character will talk about the great inventions of the 1800s, there will be demonstrations of tintype photography and cylinder recording, and "Sarge's Heroes" will talk about WWII.
"People can go through three different centuries of time," Melssen said.
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Also on hand to entertain audiences are Aerial Dance of Green Bay, which offers performances by dancers suspended in the air; live music by Green Bay rock band Jammin' with DJ and Cutter and 1960s-style "chill music" by Crooner Windsong; and cosplay makeup and special effects demonstrations.
And for those who want more physical stimulation than just walking around, pigtailed DC Comics antihero Harley Quinn (played by Kristi Staab) will not only stroll the grounds but also lead a Zumba class at 1:30 p.m. each day. (Melssen said with a laugh that she doesn't think there will be any blood or injuries.) Visitors also can try an escape room and axe throwing for an additional fee.
Visitors also can check out the marketplace, with about three dozen artisan vendors displaying and selling their wares, food from Desert Veterans of Wisconsin and Green Bay food truck Scrapyard Smoker BBQ, wine from Mona Rose Winery in Green Bay and craft beers from Thumb Knuckle Brewery of Luxemburg. Melssen said all the vendors that took part in last year's event that didn't have a conflicting date this year are returning.
Her one big hope to improve this year's festival lies in the weather. Last year's opening day was plagued by what Melssen described as monsoon-like rain — "it poured the entire day and didn't stop" — but the Sunday of the festival saw nicer weather and a healthy crowd. By the way, the forecast for the weekend calls for mostly sun and temperatures in the 60s and 70s.
"Last year was challenging (because of the rain)," Melssen said. "In spite of that, we still had people coming from across the state, some from the South Side of Chicago. (And) everyone who came talked about how much fun it was. … Standing at the front gate and you hear people laughing and chattering, people having a good time, it did my heart good."
Based on Melssen has been seeing and hearing, she expects cosplay fans, history buffs and just curious folks to come out in full force.
"We're getting a lot more buzz, a lot more chatter on social media," Melssen said.
The Times of Future Past cosplay festival takes place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, June 11 and 12, at Winter Park, N3787 Ransom Moore Lane (off County F), Kewaunee. Daily admission is $12 for ages 13 and older, $6 ages 5 to 12, $8 service members and veterans (must purchase tickets at the door with ID). Parking at the park is limited; a free shuttle will run Saturday from Waterfront Bar & Grill, 215 N. Main St. on Kewaunee's Lake Michigan shore. A portion of the proceeds go to the Fox Valley chapter of Desert Veterans of Wisconsin. No pets or animals can be brought into the festival.
For advance tickets or more information, visit futurepastfestival.com or facebook.com/futurepastfestival.
Contact Christopher Clough at 920-741-7952, 920-562-8900 or [email protected]
This article originally appeared on Green Bay Press-Gazette: Meet history and fantasy, Zumba with a comic book villainess at Kewaunee cosplay festival