Big Muddy Mini Maker Faire

February 26, 2020

Written by Rachel McCoy | Photography submitted by Big Muddy Mini Maker Faire


DEFINITION: Having the ability to create or design new things or to think originally.

Attention all curious minds and inquisitive types: Let’s talk about making lightning. And robots. And humans creating snow cones by running in a gigantic hamster wheel. And growing vegetables with soil … And let’s do it together with dozens of other engineers, artists, crafters and entrepreneurs at the third annual Big Muddy Mini Maker Faire, set for March 7, 2020, at the historic Restoration Natatorium in downtown St. Joseph.

The Big Muddy Mini Maker Faire can be described as a rustic, hands-on science fair blended with a touch of county fair and placed within a lot of local history. The vendors and participants, called Makers, come to demonstrate their discoveries with everyone who attends. And everyone who attends is, in fact, somewhat of a Maker themselves.

Now a worldwide event, Maker Faire began in 2006 in the San Francisco Bay Area as the brainchild of the editors of Make magazine. In St. Joseph, the Big Muddy Mini Maker Faire is hosted by Mosaic Life Care Foundation as part of its ongoing focus on developing opportunities around Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (or, STEAM). It’s described as “a gathering of fascinating, curious people who enjoy learning and who love sharing what they can do. From engineers to artists to scientists to crafters, Maker Faire is a venue for these ‘makers’ to show hobbies, experiments, projects,” according to the project’s website.

Others, like Tim Doyle, Reverend, Restoration Church (housed inside Restoration Natatorium), get excited about the way the Maker Faire connects families St. Joseph’s entrepreneurial spirit while also looking to the future. “In the city’s early days, a surge of ingenuity and technological advancement made our city a modern wonder. This event is a tribute to that era and an opportunity to encourage young minds (and young at heart) to dream about what is possible!,” says Doyle.

In terms of innovation, few buildings in St. Joseph can compete with the Restoration Natatorium space. Doyle explains that the indoor water attraction (a sort of massive indoor swimming pool, filled with river water, and surrounded by homemade trapeze-like swings) housed in the building in the late 1800s was way ahead of its time. Virtually unchanged from its original state, the warehouse building at 117 Francis Street is one of the oldest structures in Downtown St. Joseph.

“Reactions to the Natatorium pretty much fall somewhere in the category of ‘wow,’ and ‘I had no idea this space was so cool!,” says Doyle. “Almost everyone who comes here is curious about things like the floors, the brick walls, handwritten signs and architectural elements built more than 150 years ago. So it’s a great fit for this event, and probably pretty unique among worldwide locations for Maker faires.”

The 2020 Maker Faire will feature an eclectic and educational mix of Makers and vendors, brought together with an enthusiastic crew of volunteers. Guests can learn about everything from robots to 3-D printing; recycling projects; hydroponic vegetables; science and electricity; physics, puppetry and art. Groups like the St. Joseph Woodworkers Guild and the MWSU Department of Chemistry Griffon Lab will be on-hand to showcase their creativity and share their local know-how in a low-key, but highly intriguing, way.

One popular returning attraction is the seven-foot human powered hamster wheel, a hands-on (or feet-on?) experiences that allows a participant to create shaved ice, powered by the hamster wheel motion. Why? Because its fun to play with objects, think about problems in new ways and learn how stuff works.

“The Big Muddy Mini Maker Faire is an opportunity for attendees to experience a variety of career fields in STEAM,” said Donna Gibson, Mosaic Life Care Foundation/Big Muddy Mini Maker Faire producer. “The goal of the Faire is to entertain, inform, connect and grow the maker culture and opportunities for DIY and learning for the northwest Missouri region. The Big Muddy Mini Maker Faire participants can inspire creativity and create public awareness for their programs.”

Yes, and after vising the Faire and exploring the Natatorium, you take something really important away from your journey: A renewed appreciation for what once was, and a rekindled faith in what could be. And that’s pretty uncommon.


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