Elf Fantasy Fair (EFF for short) Haarzuilens prides itself on being one of the biggest and eldest Fantasy festivals in the Netherlands. They also claim they’re the best and while a lot of people will readily agree with that statement, I beg to differ.
Yes EFF is a fun event, yes there is a lot to see, do, shop, eat and drink but… it’s just not as good as several other cons out there, including the little sister to this event, EFF Arcen which is held in September.
While Haarzuilens is in fact a great big domain assuring that people that want to can easily find a quiet corner to rest, be on their own or take photos without a bazillion people in the way, it’s also swamped, overly crowed and often obnoxious in many areas. It’s just no fun if it takes you 10 minutes to walk 20 meters because “professional” photographers are clogging up an entire road with their equipment to take a photo of the many marvellously dressed visitors. Because if you want to see costumes, it is an absolute fact that you can see some truly stunning ones at EFF.
It’s logical that people will want to photograph these folks, but surely there are ways to go about it without bothering everyone surrounding you, especially if you consider that there’s plenty of open fields and lake/pond areas on the domain, just off the beaten paths. It comes as to no surprise that by the end of the day it was nigh impossible to take a photo without people running past you in front of your camera, because nearly everyone was simply fed up with having to stop and wait every five steps.
Also the set-ups could have been better. While the inner market, so to speak, where most of the food and drink could be found, had a wide enough path way to get past the queues, this didn’t go for the stalls selling food along the narrower paths which made obtaining something to eat from those difficult and annoying. Especially the awesome stockbrod stall had this issue.
The same goes for some of the encampment set-ups. It is really a bit mind boggling why awesome encampments such as The Steampunk Objective were placed at the, quite literally, far end of the event grounds, on what was basically a strip of sidewalk grass while right next to them was this enormous field with trees. With nothing else on it. I personally feel that their absolutely stunning set-up would have benefitted a lot more from a better area, giving the Star Wars group across from them more space also. I can’t help but wonder why at an event that has been running for as long as it has, this sort of spacing errors are still happening as they only cause overcrowding on the busiest times of the day.
The road leading up to Steampunk Park.
As always, The Steampunk Objective did their utmost, and then some, to bring steampunk to the public, introducing those unaware of the movement to it via beautiful outfits in many different kinds of steampunk fashion, ranging from aristocrats to explorers, casual, contemporary and much more! In fact their Steampunk Park alone made it worth for me to go to EFF, and they were most definitely the highlight of my visit! As always they had several little areas, ranging from display stands to cosy outdoors parlour areas where the visitor could admire all manner of things steam and gather more information about steampunk and what it entails. It’s also a great way of steampunks from all over Europe to find each other and meet new people into steam.
It was a bit too crowded for more set-up photos, sorry!
And with the Fase III LARP group as neighbours dieselpunk was also represented.
Of course, all these downsides aside, I did have a good time. There were a lot of really nice people, awesome costumes to admire, the stockbrod was delicious (even though I did feel like I was risking my life to get one) and reasonably priced (just like most of the other food and drink at the fair), there was plenty of room to sit and rest both in the sun and the shade and it was nice to browse the shops. Mind you, it has to be noted that it was lucky that the weather was this nice, had it rained it would have been sheer and utter misery because none of the pathways were sorted out for bad weather (muddy misery right there if had rained) and there wouldn’t have nearly been enough shelter from what I can see from the set-up now.
So yes, it is a fun event even though it is flawed. It also does have a lot of good points of course, but not enough to make me want to go back and pay the steep ticket price again, I’ll stick to EFF Arcen instead, which is, in my opinion, far better and nicer than the original one and seriously underappreciated compared to the Haarzuilens edition. And of course I look forward to the encampment of The Steampunk Objective there as well 🙂
More photos of this edition of EFF here.
Photography by Hilde Heyvaert and Bert Van den Wyngaert.