One of the most amazing effects of Maker Faires is that they not only inspire people to make, but they also motivate folks to organize Maker Faires for their own communities, creating a ripple effect of Maker goodness.
In 2006, the very first Maker Faire was hosted in San Mateo, California, and a year later, in 2007, the Make: team organized the first Maker Faire in Austin, Texas. There’s certainly no shortage of creativity and Maker spirit in Austin, and the community came out in droves.
In 2008, that same team hosted the second Austin Faire, and Austinite Kami Wilt was there to witness it. Wilt “had a life-altering experience there, where she realized that Makers and making were central to her existence.” Shortly thereafter, she founded Austin Tinkering School to enable learning through making for the kids in the Austin community.
The following year, as the Maker Movement was picking up steam, the small team at Make: realized they could no longer organize the Faire in Austin. For the next few years, Wilt waited for the Faire to return. One day she came to the conclusion that someone would have to grab the reigns and just make it happen, and that someone could very well be her.
In true Maker spirit, Wilt galvanized the community and organized the first Austin Mini Maker Faire in 2012. The hard work of Wilt and her team has paid off, as the Faire has grown and evolved over the past four years. This year’s Faire is coming up this weekend, on May 16 and 17 at the Palmer Event Center. We caught up with wonder woman Kami Wilt to get a bit of perspective and insight.
How have you seen the Faire grow over the past four years?
The first year we did it, it was just a wily little crew of Austinites who wanted to bring Maker Faire back to Austin, and we didn’t have any event-planning experience. We hosted it in an old train station that had been converted to artist studios. It was small but people loved it. Now we’re in our fourth year and expecting 10,000 attendees over the course of the weekend! It grew quickly.
What effect has hosting the Faire had on the Maker community in Austin?
People talk a lot about how the different Maker groups don’t know each other — like the weavers don’t know the hackerspace folks and the Maker Ed people aren’t connected with lots of great Makers who might love to come to their classes and share skills or teach. Maker Faire is such a great way to strengthen the community so people start making connections with each other.
What, in your opinion, makes Austin Makers unique? What’s the flavor of the Austin Maker community?
Austin, to me, has always seemed like a really friendly and supportive place. If you come up with an idea, people are bound to say, “Yeah! Let’s make that movie! Let’s build that cool thing! Let’s do it! I’ll help you!” So it’s a fantastic breeding ground for Makers of all sorts.
What’s the most rewarding part about doing the hard work of organizing a Faire in your community?
When you walk around at the Faire, it seems like so many people have really happy and amazed looks on their faces. You don’t see nearly as many bored and stressed-out adults or kids bouncing off the walls. Everyone seems like they’ve stumbled into something that was better than they even expected. There’s just so much cool stuff going on and so many fun surprises. I love it.
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Last but not least, here are some more shots from previous Austin Mini Maker Faires. If you’re in the Austin area, join the fun this weekend at the fourth annual!