Around the middle of March, I took part in Northern Virginia’s Mini Maker Faire, held at South Lakes High School and Langston Hughes Middle School, in Reston, VA. To my knowledge, this was the first such fair in Northern Virginia. There have been several mini maker faires held fairly locally before – Silver Spring being one of them – but this was the first one within the Fairfax County area. I found out about it quite by chance. While Robert’s sister was visiting for her birthday celebration, we somehow stumbled on the topic of Maker Faire. Robert has been to the large one in New York. Always interested by festivals and fairs (let’s just blame that on folklore, shall we?), I did a quick internet search, which revealed that there would be a smaller version of Maker Faire taking place just down the road from my place in Northern Virginia.
I went ahead and submitted an application to be an exhibitor at the faire, showing how to make costumes (particularly, large character heads) out of fairly household materials. They accepted my application and I was on the list of creative booths!
Robert and I went in to the high school the day before the event to set up my table. I had an interesting set-up: a round table, with stools attached to the rest of the assembly. I knew it was going to make for an interesting challenge, when it came time to actually do some work at the event, but I figured I could make due.
After we finished laying out the bins, Robert and I took some time to wander around, watching people setting up their own spaces in
anticipation of the next day’s crowds. I had a nice chat with a lady who had a booth where she was going to teach people to knit. She had a fantastic pair of knitted and felted slippers on display, and I was incredibly jealous of other peoples’ ability to make something other than a scarf.
The gym, across the hall from where I would be stationed, was a hub of 3-D printers and robotics and drones. The DC Area Drone Group, of which Robert is a member, was set up at one end, with a screen separating the flying robots from anyone who might not have the presence of mind to duck when it sounds like something is going to crash.
Sadly, I didn’t get a whole lot of opportunity to walk around and visit the other booths the next day. We got to the faire early on Sunday morning, and I immediately set to work straightening a huge stack of coat hangers. My plan for the day was to have a work-in-progress…Olaf, from Frozen. After setting out my materials that morning, I was just about to start wandering around the nearby tables when I spotted the swarm starting to enter the far end of the cafeteria. Before I knew it, it was battlestations!
The first visitors to my table were my friend Scott and his two sons. I hadn’t seen the eldest since he was about four, and I had never met the youngest, so we had a wonderful visit. They tried on the heads I had on display, and told me about this year’s Odyssey of the Mind challenge (which sounded awesome!) and promised to return later in the day, to see how my costume head was progressing.
I wound up having a fairly steady stream of visitors to the table throughout the course of the day. I think folks were mostly drawn by the opportunity to try on giant costume heads. I had brought Kowl and Oogie Boogie the day before and had planned on grabbing Toothless as I headed out that morning, but I had forgotten the dragon at home. Thankfully, I caught Heather before they passed our house, and she and Frank picked it up for me on their way in.
Toothless was probably the biggest hit at the table. He was definitely the most recognizable, for most people. Everyone wanted to
try him on. Unfortunately, he also happens to be the most fragile of the three heads. He’s not exactly about to break apart, but the eyes and the horns are definitely the sections of the head that I’d rather people not poke or pick the head up with. Of course, that means that the eyes and the horns are the very first things that people are drawn to. One came up and started poking the eyes into the head. When I told him not to do that, he asked why. Oh, child. Because it doesn’t belong to you, it’s not yours to destroy, and because someone told you not to. I even had a grown ass man who should have known better poke at the eyes. When Maggie and I asked him not to do it, he nodded his head, and poked them a little more. GRAAAAA!
Apart from those two, and a few kids who attempted to walk off across the room while wearing the heads (they were thwarted by Maggie), most folks were pretty respectful of the fact that they were handling something that someone had spent a lot of time working on. I chatted with a mother whose daughter had recently taken on the challenge of making her school’s mascot costume (a panther), and crossed paths with a number of other costumers. Some folks had even been to DragonCon, and recognized some of my costumes.
I have to say, it’s a good thing I had some extra help show up throughout the day. Robert and Maggie both took some turns at the booth, supervising little hands as they picked up the heads and answering the questions they could, and were kind enough to watch the table long enough for me to step out to the food trucks for a little break.
When the event ended at 4 I was exhausted, my voice was shot, and I was sweaty and dehydrated and ready to go home, but it was a truly amazing day. My only wish was that I had gotten a chance to see more of the rest of the faire. Mom, Heather, Frank and Joey all reported on the things they had seen in other rooms and buildings, and it sounds like there were a lot of wonderful offerings. There’s another mini maker faire coming up later in the year, in Charlottesville. I don’t plan on exhibiting there, but I’m thinking about going, just so I get a chance to see what else the faires have to offer.