I can't be emphatic enough about this point: Maker Faire is a total, total BLAST. A blast blasting into another blast, actually. It's infinitely worth attending in any of its incarnations in ANY location. Let me explain why.
I am a person that, for the last fourteen years, has had the very great pleasure of operating a small crafts company. We manufacture a gift item, journals made from an ongoing collection of (mostly) vintage hardcover books. They're nice, people like them, and I'm just as pleased as punch to participate in my life. We sell them wholesale to other gift shops, bookstores and art supply stores. I have an intimate retail space here in Portland, Oregon where there are thousands and thousands and thousands of curated books lying around, awaiting transformation into journals. I also attend various craft sales and trade shows, street fairs and pop-up shops. Lots of events. Every year. For years and years. Good ones and bad ones and many, many mediocre ones. Suffice it to say that I've been around the block and that my opinion matters a tiny, little itsy-bitsy bit.
I applied for the Maker Faire in San Mateo for May 2013 knowing very little about it to be perfectly honest. I knew that there would be some crafty people there, some names that I recognized. I also knew that we wouldn't be the focus of the event. I made the drive down the I-5 in May prepared to do my job and see the event with fresh eyes.
Woof! Getting there was a breeze. There was a marked competence amongst the planners of the event and I feel the same confidence in the planners here in Portland. Thousands of individuals were moving purposefully around, loading in gear, setting up strange contraptions, talking with one another with some purpose. There was an atmosphere of collegiate inquiry and a sort of academic interest amongst the people setting up for the show. People spoke with one another in that way that people do when they're REALLY interested in what is being said to them and confident that what they had to share mattered to their partner. It was instantly inspiring.
The first day dawned with more excited set up, neighbors meeting each other, exchanging news and insight about the event. I had mostly set up the evening before so I had an opportunity to walk around a bit. Coffee and pastries were provided, gratis, by the good people of Radio Shack. This reminded me of just how wholesome, old fashioned and genuinely DIY that company is and encouraged me to remember them more often. ( Thanks, Radio Shack. And never-ever, under penalty of death, change your name. It's perfect). I reclined on a sunny, grassy spot away from the crowds but was immediately engaged in a fascinating conversation with a well informed person on a subject wholly foreign to me. He happened to be a presenter there ( A "maker" in the idiom of the event ) giving a talk on micro-robotic something or others. I don't quite remember the details (I was sleepy!) but his enthusiasm was really all that I needed to carry me through the pleasant fifteen minutes that we spent together. It was the first of MANY such pleasant conversations that weekend. I'm looking forward to many more at future events.
Something about this event reminds me of the salons and cafes of Paris that we imagine. It is a place of inquiry and interest, engagement and exploration, where people come together to share their passion for learning in a kinetic environment. Plus it's just silly and fun. I am super excited to participate in Portland's Mini Maker Faire at OMSI this September. I can’t wait to engage with curious visitors and learn from the 100 Makers that will be participating! I hope to see you there.