Key City Steps Up to Help Out Inconvenienced Vendors – An Interview with Wheeler “Doc” Stone

Key City Steps Up to Help Out Inconvenienced Vendors

Wheeler ‘Doc’ Stone, the founder of the Key City Steampunk Festival, is a youthful, jolly sort of spirit. His playful curly mustache reflects both his sense of artistic whimsicality and his passion for the steampunk genre. Launched only two years ago, this festival was born from an annual penny-farthing race that had long been held in Frederick, MD.

“The penny-farthing race seemed like a perfect opportunity for steampunk artists and performers to gather and show their work.” Stone told me when explaining his inspiration for the festival. He is a prolific leather artist himself and had already established a successful career selling his beautifully-fashioned leather cosplay accessories at various events around the Northeast. He knew how difficult it was for artists to get their careers off the ground. So, he wanted to give local steampunk makers a place to grow their businesses. “I was already making a living off of my leatherworking career. I didn’t need to start the festival for financial reasons. I just wanted a place for steampunks to come together and appreciate the artform,” said Stone.

A Helping Hand

Soon after Stone hatched his plan, friend, fellow leatherworker and Steampunk’d show contestant, Tobias McCurry hopped on the project and the little Festival through two years of success. “In the past, we’ve had about 1,500 attendees. This year we might be looking at around 3,000.” Stone reports that he’s seen a bump in ticket sales after recent unfortunate events with the nearby Steampunk World’s Fair.

When our conversation turned to this subject, he told me how sickened and saddened he was by the circumstances of the Fair’s demise. He wanted to do something to support the vendors and performers that were inconvenienced by the event cancellation. So he spoke to the hotel which hosts their full weekend Festival in August, the Clarion Inn in Frederick, MD. And arranged a way to help vendors make up some of their losses. He has planned Lighthouse: a Vendor’s Benefit Bazaar: a hotel restaurant takeover during the weekend that was supposed to have hosted the New Jersey event, May 19th-20th.

The main event, scheduled for August 17th-19th, looks to be even more exciting. There will be panels, a guest appearance by another Steampunk’d participant Thomas Dean Willeford, a performance by This Way to the Egress, and a famed “Steampunk RC Drag Race’ and ‘Steampunk RC Death Match’. It is an event meant for families. With security team members from Wild West Con and local recruits, Doc Stone assures me that attendees will feel safe and comfortable enough to just relax and enjoy the show.

Get your tickets here


Bess Goden is a contributing writer for Steampunk Journal and the writer/artist behind

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