Elfia Arcen

At the top of European fantasy events.

Elfia Arcen Netherlands
Elfia Arcen, the Netherlands, September 20 (Hilde Heyvaert)

This latest edition of Elfia Arcen could benefit from a splendid organization (that really took notice from last year’s edition and clearly improved upon it) and beautiful summer weather on the Saturday. We didn’t attend both days, so obviously we can’t speak for Sunday.

Unholy mud everywhere last year made the organization really step up and make far better use of the pathways in the Arcen castle gardens to set up sections as well as market stands. Improvised pathways were spread out a little better and while they could have been wider, they were at least better laid out so that the left over mud from the rain on Friday wasn’t posing any real issues to people attending the fair.

While there were quite a few of returning shops and food stands, a lot of new ones had also come to this year’s Elfia, making shopping diverse and a great range was on offer from craft supplies, all kinds of clothing, LARP supplies, contemporary culture and fandom bits and bobs and much, much more.

The food stands were also offering a good variety of meals, pretty reasonable in price, going from fast food such as fries to vegetarian and vegan falafel meals, garlic breads and meat on a stick. It was possible to eat under €10 for a meal, but getting drinks was, as usual, slightly more of a hassle because of the fact that you have to front €4 as insurance for your cup. Sure you get it back, but if you’re short on cash, it can be a right pain. Brining your own cup to fantasy fairs is thus really the way forward. We know we keep on saying this, but not everyone is a veteran fantasy event visitor, so not everyone knows.

Traditionally Elfia Arcen is one of the most varied fantasy fairs, quite possibly the most varied, that the Netherlands has on offer. They have something for everyone: lectures, concerts, storytellers, roaming entertainment of all kinds, steampunk, traditional Japanese displays, sci-fi, fantasy, dieselpunk, pirates, knights, you name and they’ve probably set up an area for it.

Steampunk wise the German crew of the Steampunk Expeditions Gesellschaft had set up a truly magnificent camp, displaying all kinds of steampunk and assorted props, creating areas where people could not only come and see and get aquainted with the movement, but also for other steampunks to come and join them for a bit. To top it off they even had set up a sort of photo booth, where people could use the set up to make photos of themselves and friends, and use the hats lined up in the area as props.

They were joined, a few meters away by the Steampunk Objective, who are present at most events in The Netherlands.

Further down the path from both steampunk camps, just over the bridge, post apocalyptic dieselpunk style LARP group, Fase 3 had set up, with their vehicles and almost Mad Max style they brought their own unique take on dieselpunk, which is always cool to see as well.

This also means you see all sorts of people visiting, from those wearing outfits clearly stating which subculture they’re part of, to people in regular clothes, all kinds of cosplayers and beautiful full on costumes and historical reproduction garments. If you want to admire fabulously dressed people, this is the event to go to.

Just be aware that it is also full of people that have bought a camera (and assorted kit) and think of themselves as a proper photographer. While many photographers are decent people that will politely ask you to pose, the vast majority sadly will pretty much shove a camera in your face, and when one person asks someone for a photo you can expect several others to suddenly appear with their camera, and possibly try to get in the original asker’s way.

This was the first year that I’ve seen things this bad, you could literally not walk 10 meters without photographers being a right bother. It had come to the point where many costumed guests were point blank refusing to pose for a photo, ignoring even polite requests because they were simply that fed up.

This is of course, not the organization’s fault, but we feel it needs to be mentioned regardless.

Of course, this was a minority of people attending that behaved badly, and there were many truly wonderful people and things to see and do to compensate for their antics.

Thankfully the Arcen castle grounds are so diverse and simply huge that even with the crowds it was perfectly possible to find a quiet spot to just sit and relax for a bit, or to take photos unhindered of people you’re with. Plus it’s great fun exploring the entire domain, from the rose gardens and fountain ponds to the Asian garden, the animal compounds, fantasy style sections and big greenhouse with koi pond.

So crowdedness and the bad behaviour of some visitors aside, this year’s edition of Elfia Arcen was undoubtedly one of the best so far thanks to the efforts put in by the organization, and it was once again clear why Elfia Arcen is at the top of European fantasy events. We look forward to next year!

More photos can be found here.

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