For children, hardly a day goes by without the experience of arts, crafts, show and tell, building blocks or tinkering with toys.
But in Kansas City, that young-at-heart spirit of creativity doesn’t have to be forgotten. In fact, it’s rekindled each year in a public outpouring at Union Station.
On June 24 and 25, thousands of makers, inventors and tinkerers from all across the nation will gather in Kansas City for its sixth-annual Maker Faire. The family-friendly event is hosted by Union Station and is set to attract over 17,000 attendees, 1,800 makers and 350 maker booths, with representation from nearly all 50 states.
Christy Nitsche, director of advancement and community engagement at Union Station, said the event will commemorate the power of creativity.
“The Maker Faire is about celebrating makers,” said Nitsche. “A huge part of it is about inspiring others to find out what their passion is so that they themselves can become makers. … Everything that you could imagine that could be made with your own hands and thought up in your own brain is here at this festival.”
Although Union Station is proud to host the faire since its Kansas City launch 2011, Nitsche said this is not just a Union Station event — it belongs to the Kansas City community.
Maker Faire Kansas City partners include the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, Missouri S&T, JE Dunn, Cerner, KCPT, the Neighborhood Tourist Development Fund of the City of Kansas City, Mo. and more.
Nitsche said that the faire’s growth and national reach speaks to the strength of Kansas City’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.
“Kansas City is an entrepreneurial city, and the Maker Faire is really a showcase of entrepreneurs,” Nitsche said. “The fair is a huge opportunity for Kansas City from an economic development standpoint. This is a huge opportunity for all of our sponsors to see what is happening in Kansas City’s innovation arena.”
To match the pace of the event’s growth, the 2017 Maker Faire Kansas City will take over even more space in Union Station, with an additional 25,000 square feet.
“The physical footprint of the fair is going to grow significantly this year,” Nitsche said. “It literally takes up all of Union Station, both inside and out.”
Maker Faire will host food artisans, wood crafters, virtual reality technology, 3D printers, green screens, a family obstacle course, inflatables and several hands-on activities for kids.
Nitsche added that the faire fits directly with Union Station’s mission, which is dedicated to science, education and celebration of the community. This year, the faire will bring a greater educational focus.
“Maker Inspired started last year as a one-hour workshop and speaking opportunity for Kansas City educators,” Nitsche. “We’re extending that this year to a half-day workshop offered the Friday of Maker Faire weekend and 100 local educators will be attending.”
New this year, Maker Faire will welcome Strawberry Swing — one of the top indie craft fairs in the nation. The quarterly fair features a variety of handmade, recycled and upcycled items.
“We wanted to partner with someone who has a relationship with craft makers especially,” said Tammy Ruder, an organizer of Maker Faire Kansas City. “It was important to us to get the arts involved. Strawberry Swing just made sense to partner with us and help curate people to come be a part of our faire.”
Ryan Bell is a maker, artist and educator and has been participating in the Maker Faire for several years. She said that it’s the interactive, inspiring environment that keeps her and her family coming back.
“Maker Faire is kind of like taking that fun, makerspace workspace environment and blowing it up to a bigger proportion so that you could really share what you’re doing with everybody and see what other people are making,” Bell said. “For my whole family it’s really just fun interacting with other people and explaining how to make things and sharing our knowledge.”
On Saturday, June 24, Maker Faire, KCPT and 90.9 The Bridge will host an outdoor concert featuring local Kansas City musicians Anderson East, Chris Meck and the Guilty Birds, starting at 7 p.m.
A product of Make Magazine, Maker Faire is a national organization with over 150 community-driven events produced annually in the United States and around the world. In 2016, Maker Faire hosted 191 total faires in 38 countries — Kansas City being among the biggest.
Each ticket comes with free admission to Science City. Ticket prices begin at $9 with family and group discounts available.
To make sense of the madness, watch Startland’s video below of Maker Faire 2016.