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Today we continue our series Families at the Faire where we profile a family’s experience at last year’s Maker Faire Austin. Meet the Royers, a young family who took advantage of early bird ticket specials so they could enjoy Maker Faire for the enitre weekend. They explored, played, crafted and came out with loads of great stories – and advice – on making the most of a Maker Faire Weekend.
Your names/kids/ages:
Jamie, Joe, and Nicholas (who was 5)
Our friend’s son Aiden was with us on Sunday (he was also 5)
How did you hear about Maker Faire?
I have read Craft: since it first came out and was so excited to hear that the Maker Faire was going to be held here.  I had heard about and seen photos of the faire in California and it just looked great.  I remember poking around on Craftzine one day and seeing an Austin date and being in gleeful disbelief.
What made you decide to attend Maker Faire 2007?
The idea of getting to spend a day around people who create for the sheer enjoyment of it was a very strong draw for me, but we each had our reasons for attending.  Joe is an computer guy who went to school to be an electrical engineer and he was excited to see what projects people came up with.  We both thought it would be great to bring Nicholas to meet people who were passionate about what they were doing and where he would be exposed to so many creative avenues.  It also helped that the Austin Children’s Museum was going to be heading up the children’s area, so we knew that this would be a kid-friendly event.
How long were you there?
We went for the whole weekend.  Because I found out about the faire so early, I was able to get an early ticket discount.  I also have the advantage of being a college student.  However, I still would have bought tickets without the discounts.  I highly recommend going the whole weekend to anyone who has the time and means to do it.  We got so much more out of the second day just knowing what we had learned the day before.
What did your kids think of the event?
Nicholas loved it.  For an entire month afterward he asked us to tell him how many days until we could go back.  He still has his Maker Store bag in his room that he uses to cart around his legos or sand toys whenever we go out and any time someone asks him about it, he’ll talk their ear off. 
What were their favorite activities?
The model rockets were hands-down the favorite activity.  Building and launching a rocket hundreds of feet into the air – what boy wouldn’t love that?  We also watched the giant Mousetrap about four times and saw the eepybird.com diet coke fountains.  The juggling tent was great, where he made his own juggling balls.  The Hasbro section fostered a new found love for Tinker Toys in him.  He painted a pumpkin the first thing when we walked outside.  Really, the entire children’s area was amazing, but the whole rest of the faire was great for him as well.  I think what made it so great was that everyone we spoke with or ran across was so welcoming and engaging.  We never felt like having Nicholas there asking questions or being a five year-old was an imposition at all on anyone.  In fact, everyone we talked to was excited to show him the wonders of making his own entertainment.  That was what made the experience so great for us.
What tips/recs would you offer to families thinking of going to Maker Faire this year?
Don’t expect to see everything and don’t expect to make it through quickly.  We realized pretty soon into our first day there that this was an experience best dealt with without a strict plan.  Yes, look at the schedule and make time for things you really want to see, but just take the rest of it as it comes.  This is doubly true with kids because there is no telling what will be the big draw for them.  We didn’t expect Nicholas to really be interested in the exhibit that he had already seen at the children’s museum a number of times, but he wanted to go through every last piece of it. 
Also, most of the food there for lunch is carnival food, so not super healthy.  It is a site rule that there is no outside food either, so eat a really good breakfast and bring some cash.  There are water fountains, and we brought our sigg bottles and just filled them throughout the day (in addition to the country lemonade that you have to get).
What are your plans for attending Maker Faire this year?
We already have weekend tickets for the three of us.  Last year, Nicholas brought his friend Aiden along on Sunday and we’re hoping to convince his whole family to join us.  I think Aiden will back us up on this one.
Anything you are hoping to do/see that you didn’t last year?
I really was sad that I missed the theremin demonstrations from last year, so I am definitely going to make time for that as well as some of the craft demonstartions.  Joe is hoping to spend a lot more time looking at the robotics section.  Other than that, we are just going to wait and see what this year’s Maker Faire has to offer and take it from there.
Pictured above:
Left: Nicholas paints a pumpkin right after arriving at the Faire
Right: Nicholas and his friend, Aidan, learn a whole new meaning for the phrase “monster truck.”