I didn’t attend the first edition of Elftopia last year, so I can’t compare. I also only attended the Saturday of this year’s edition, so this review will be focused on that. What I can say, however, that it was really fun.
First I would like to start out by giving a very well-deserved shout-out to the organization for actively acting against unwanted photography and harassment. Everyone who cosplays or dresses up in alternative fashion styles has encountered this kind of situation, where a photographer takes photos without permission and acts like a douche when addressed about, it at least once. Elftopia sets itself apart by acting against it and, if need be, getting involved and making photographers delete said photos or ban them from the event if they continue to snap single shots without permission. I applaud them for it!
It’s worth nothing the same organization is the driving force between Comic Con Brussels, Gent and Antwerpen, so that’s four events in total where you can rest assured there is active protection against douchebags and creeps.
That said, onto the review!
Elftopia, like most European fantasy fairs, takes place on castle grounds. In this case, those of Ooidonk castle in a small village outside Deinze.
It’s a little tricky to find (a little more signage would have been welcome), but once you are there, the grounds are pretty vast and the event is very well spread out.
They’ve got a pretty good program and there’s quite a few things to see and do, so you can easily be entertained all day long.
Of course, there were some staple things, such as a fandom section and shops as well as birds of prey you could admire, concerts to attend, etc., but they really did their best to offer a few things you don’t usually see.
The small Orc Village was really cool, as was the steampunk section. The living mermaid and octomaid were hard to spot on the first day, but they were pretty impressive when you did. The faun family was incredibly fun to interact with and the Fototainer with his steampunk photo booth device was sheer brilliance.
And those are just a few things that were on the program, by far not all!
Steamnation definitely deserves a shout-out for their steampunk village, because it was a ton of fun. While on one hand it wasn’t that different from every other steampunk village you find at a fantasy fair, on the other hand it was, because they tried very hard to offer devices and entertainment you don’t see with other crews, which was very nice.
Yes, there were steampunks dressed to the nines, yes, there was tea duelling (a staple, for everyone loves a good tea duel!) but there were also absinthe lectures and Q&As, which is very cool.
And that particular beverage brings me to the next point…
The food and drinks were rather on the pricy side, but they did cater to vegans and vegetarians and you are allowed to bring your own food and drinks. So there’s that, you’re not forced to spend a lot of money on these things.
Elftopia is, at this point, still a small event that is clearly trying to build a reputation and grow. And that’s OK, because all these big events have started out small and needed several years and editions to get to the point where they are now. What matters is that it’s a fun event, they really put in the effort to make visitors feel welcome and offer a lot of fun things to see and do.
Sure, there are some things that can be improved on, but my only real issue was the lack of shelter from the rain. There is a big covered area in the market place, but a lot of things are happening outside, so setting up more big shelter areas in the coming edition would definitely be a good thing. Not just from rain either, shelter with benches are great when it’s hot.
Small things that can easily be fixed aside, this edition was really fun to attend and I really enjoyed it. If you like fantasy fairs in general and don’t mind that this event is not the size of its Dutch counterparts, Castlefest or Elfia (I would say that this is more of the level of FantastyVal), I would definitely recommend it. If you don’t, then I would suggest waiting a few more years until they’ve grown significantly. Because I really do believe that they can build this up to become one of the major fantasy fairs of Europe.
More photos here.