Makers Faire? What’s that?
This was the question we heard a few times this past week after MsBoyink and I attended (sans-kids but more about that in a moment) the Detroit Makers Faire.
And it’s a good question. A good question in the way that makes you think for a few moments before answering it, wherein you try to calculate the relative geekiness of the person asking the question and gearing the answer appropriately.
Maker’s Faire is so many things.
It’s Star Wars.
It’s a hamfest.
It’s a steampunk festival.
It’s a tractor show.
It’s a Ray Bradbury county fair with lightning-rod salesmen and evil witches in tents.
It’s a summer programming camp for 8 year olds.
It’s grown people racing Power Wheels Jeeps.
It’s a life-size Mousetrap game.
It’s group-powered bicycles weaving through the crowds.
It’s Burning Man for families.
It’s 3D printers printing 3d printers.
It’s old radio tubes repurposed into robots.
It’s clockworks and scale-model railroads.
It’s Arduinos and GoPros and drones.
It’s a lot more than this list.
We attended the event back in 2012 as a family. This time around the date worked out such that the Makers Faire was being held at the same time that MsBoyink’s parents had a lakefront cottage rented back in Kalamazoo. It was also the date of our 23rd wedding anniversary. If you are a traveling parent you can see where I’m going here…we ditched the kids with grandparents and left for a few days of just. adult. time.
It was one of those days where you get a glimpse of your life as empty-nesters. And it was odd. I know we didn’t “engage” as much as two years ago when we were here with the kids. Part of it was the crowd - it was definitely much more well-attended than the 2012 event. That’s great as we are fans of the Maker movement and appreciate how it’s reviving some skill sets that have seemed close to dying out. But between the long lines, the sun, and not having the kids with us we sort of wandered around in a daze most of the day, looking at exhibits but not jumping in to play the various games and do the activities.
We still saw most of the exhibits, attended a “second-wave internet” lecture that justified the trip as a business expense but didn’t make much sense past that, and connected with a few of the Grand Rapids Makers.
I said to MsBoyink later on in the day that we’ll have to be intentional about finding ways to play when it’s just her and me again. It’s easier to jump in and be playful when the kids are around but without them the dynamic is certainly different.
We stayed in the Detroit area a couple days after the Makers Faire, thinking we’d explore other attractions in the area. Instead we cranked out some paid work, got started on interviews for our Ditching Suburbia book, and just enjoyed a quiet spot in the fairgrounds.