The Magic Never Died
By Dale Dougherty
June 24, 2022
0:00 / 15:29

We start the day before with setting up the tents, up on the harbor front, which is a beautiful setting in Port Jeff You to have this Maker Faire Long Island. That's one of the perks of coming to our fair. But the highlight really was just seeing that the magic never died. We were gone for two years, at least paused for two years, officially, but the magic never died.


You can think of it like a force, this magic force that can be created and directed and focused to generate wonder, curiosity and ingenuity. It's the magic of making and Maker Faire and it can multiply in any community once you find it there. It's a magic that changes lives.

Welcome to Make:cast. I'm Dale Dougherty and I'm joined today by two Maker Faire producers from Maker Faire Long Island, which just took place. I wanted to capture their insights and energy that comes off of having produced a Maker Faire. I'm gonna ask them to each introduce themselves.


Hi I'm Angeline Judex. I'm the Executive Director of the Long Island Explorium. We're a children's museum in science and engineering and we are the producers of Maker Faire Long Island. And I am the co-producer with Lisa, my partner in crime, co-producer everything that I need to stay sane. We just had Maker Faire Long Island just this past weekend on Saturday.


Where is your science museum?


We're located in Port Jefferson Village on Long Island. So in the east end of Long Island in New York.


And Lisa, can you just tell us a bit about yourself?


Hello, I'm Lisa Colette Rodriguez, director of digital media marketing and co-producing this incredible Maker Faire with Angeline, just really excited. It's been a whirlwind. I wear many hats especially with this fair, but it's been wonderful event.


Angeline, you have produced Maker Faire prior to the pandemic, and then you had maybe a two year gap.


Yes. We all had a two year gap in our psyche, so yes, we were not in person for the past two years, but we did have it virtually the first year in 2020, correct. Lisa. Yeah. And we had the Empire State Maker Faire, where we had all the producers in New York State come together and put a really phenomenal program virtually.

And we also experimented with hosting a student maker day virtually also, which was a phenomenal hit. Totally. Totally exceeded our expectations. So we did regardless, we had it virtually, it was still a very much received program.


Oh, that's great. So how did it feel to come back in person on a weekend?


We made the decision pretty late in the game. Under the normal circumstances, we would be planning this a year and a half even ahead of time. And we just made the decision probably in January and we said, we're doing this, we're pulling this off in June. It was, the support we had from makers to the community, to our staff and our volunteers was just off the charts.

Everybody was just so on board and excited about having it. And they truly saw the value of this program. It wasn't just, it represented, or at least symbolizes something more than just a one day event. It was something that this is part of who they are, part of who we are and, something that was paused for two years and now are back again.

We were very excited to have it. We knew that this was something that would be well received. It was challenging, but it was a good challenge to have. We really wanted to pull it off and it went really well,


It is a lot of work. Thank for that. yes, but it feels worth it. Doesn't it, when you see the people show up. The thing that's always struck me is this is such a great family event. That you get lots of perspectives from young and old looking at what makers are doing.


It really is. Something that's I say it and I use the term, but there is a certain magic to the Faire. Science is magic and STEM is magic. Seeing that connection between every age group going there and seeing something with wonder in their eyes and seeing the ingenuity on display being inspired is a beautiful thing. It's something that's intangible. That's hard to quantify it and describe, but it's definitely there.


You were able to attract makers not just from your immediate vicinity, but really from the broader New York area, but also outside of New York as, as well, right?


I was very excited, especially this year with coming back that I wanted, we all wanted to come back as kinda a bang.

And we were very fortunate. These were pieces that we were working on. Throughout the pandemic and then the pandemic hit. We had to change course. So I went back to reaching out to them and being able to get makers from California like Jorvon (Moss) and MythBusters Jr and people from the tri-state area and across the United States was amazing.

It was really incredible to be able to turn around such a short period of time. One, once we had the confirmation and get everyone together, it was exciting.


Angeline, what were some of the highlights for you?


This is, as you say, is, was a lot of work. We start the day before with setting up the tents, up on the harbor front, which is a beautiful setting in Port Jeff to have this Maker Faire Long Island. That's one of the perks of coming to our fair. But the highlight really, it was just seeing that the magic never died.

We were gone for two years, at least paused for two years tech, officially, but the magic never died. Like Lisa was saying that, just seeing people just back, like not missing a beat. They came, their eyes were open. It was discovery, right? Scientists say scientist discovery.

And we're talking about science because there were a science museum and it's this discovery process that everybody goes through when they come to the fair. Whether you're from zero to 99, we say, and everybody was just so excited from table to table. Nothing, ever was something that they were like, oh, this is boring. We've seen this. No, it's every oh my goodness, what now? What's next? And everything was such a joy. So the highlight really for me was just seeing that this is something that it's never gonna get old. It's never gonna get old. This is something that's so core to your being as a human being as well as to the community. And to the larger mindset, that this is what we need. And not just a want.


I like that expression that it's core to being human and core to having a community. In particular with the making stuff, we don't always see that in our community. It occurs sometimes in private or behind walls and to bring it out in public, it's a reflection of the community to see it at a Maker Faire.


Yeah we agree. I think we had participants makers from our Stony Brook University who brought such phenomenal, incredibly fun but interesting, thought-provoking, innovative hands on activities. And everybody was just so engaged. This is where you bring the community, you bring the knowledge and the expertise from a huge institution like Stony Brook University out into the community and the community understands what's going on and appreciates it.

So when there's interactions from all sectors, segments of society, and people know, I think that breaks down so many kind of barriers to understanding, and it makes everybody try better. And I, and I still think that this is so core to what we need as human beings,


It's a bit of turning the mission of the science center, like inside out. You have a wonderful setting. It's making it fun. It's accessible. And there are just so many different perspectives.

I like that you have students from Stony Brook coming. Because I think again, that's another example of, we sometimes don't see inside their walls of what's going on, what those projects are. Is would any particular project come to mind that you saw some of the students do?


We had so many. I think it almost, I feel bad. It seems like a blur to me.


I know what you mean.


It was just wild. And I think every Maker Faire producer will probably understand what I'm saying. It's wild.


Like with press ask you, what's your favorite project? Are you just like


Everything? Everything.


It's hard. It's hard as a producer. It's a different experience as a participant in going to the fair. We see everything. We love every exhibit. And what I love, like actually brought upon is that we have so many different types of diverse displays of this agility. We have university, we have people that made their own things in the garage to crafters to this and that.

Getting a perspective, cause I have family and friends that went to the fair and seen what they, how they experienced, the fair is a different thing, but they loved it all. They went from every floor to the tents and they say, we love this. We love that. There was biology things that they, we put things on our arms and they came home and they started immediately started building.


Oh, that's awesome.


And I think that's the biggest takeaway is that it didn't stop there. They took it and they were so inspired. They went home and they immediately started pulling out all their things that they could build with and do experiments. So there was science experiments going on that weekend. There was building forts going on that weekend..

So it's not just one day.


That warms my heart to hear that. That's why I think we do this-- not just to put on a show, but to have people take it home with them and say, this is something I want to do and something I can do. And that's on a family level, something that can be organized at home in the backyard, on a kitchen table.

I've just been fascinated, how kids benefit from seeing people do real things. Their response, just like going to a music concert and you say, Hey, can I play guitar? It's like going to a maker fair. You say, can I do that? Can I do biology, construction? Can I do these things? And, they don't think that's beyond them. They think that's something they can do. And that's what we wanna encourage. So that's a great response to hear.

Given we're still really dealing with COVID in many ways, I just wanna remark that you probably felt like you were walking a tight rope sometimes. As event producers, we often worry about the weather, right? What's gonna happen if a big storm comes.

We're not post COVID yet, but we're at the kind of tail end, it seems, but you still could feel that all this planning, all this work could be really affected by COVID.


We had that always hanging of our heads for the, the beginning, right when we said, yes, we're gonna do it. Every time, every day we were like, we don't know what's gonna happen, but we continue planning with the thought that, we were fortunate enough to have the event, half of it outdoors. We made sure that we could, as best as we can, social distance, having gaps in between booths, which, under normal circumstances, don't look good at all for aesthetics, because you'd be like that's a gap. Who's missing? What happened?

We tried to do that. We gave, we gave makers more tables so that they could be further apart from each other. And, we were in the village center where we had the other half of the Maker Faire. We had the walls that were glass walls that could be lifted up.

So we were able to open the walls on both sides for the airflow. We kept it spaced out. So in the sense that we had fewer makers, not as many jam packed as before, say 2019, there were, visibly some gaps, but that was intentional because that was the best we could do.

We had sanitizers everywhere. We gave people the opportunity to, wear their mask if they felt comfortable and they wanted to. But at the end of the day, I think, having that COVID cloud over us, I'm hoping that we did our best. And I think everybody appreciated that.


Any numbers from your event that you could share? Like how many makers and how many attendees?


We're still in the process of putting those numbers together. But just by tracking some of the onsite ticket sales numbers on the dashboard, surprisingly, I think we did much better than we ever did in past years in terms of numbers of attendees ticket sales. It was way beyond my expectations.


Seeing just from what I'm looking at, we came back strong. We have higher numbers than we did in 2019. It's weird. Surreal. But when you actually look at the numbers, you're like, we have bigger numbers than we did in the past. It just flowed really nicely throughout the whole day that it didn't feel like chaos that sometimes you get with a larger fair and had a great turnout of makers.


What was the feedback from makers that you got?


They love coming back. They're so happy about it. And they're excited. They're they've already said what's the next one.


You mentioned your student program that you did online. Are you seeing more schools participating and, their maker spaces and other things getting involved in your event?


Because the event is on Saturday, it's a little difficult to make this something that schools will promote as part of a regular programming that they would offer. We can't really tell and because of COVID same thing, trying to promote them on our fair on with our flyers wasn't possible. There was no printed materials that could be sent out to the school. So everything was virtual online.

I don't think that's been a a dip in interest. I think this is something that will continue. And then we might be potentially considering having maybe a student maker day in the future that would help bring the students in through the schools to the Maker Faire.

But that's something that we would think about, moving forward and if that's something that we can pull out great.


Is there anything I didn't ask you that you wanted to say about your event?


No, I think we covered. This has been such a humbling experience, at least for me, because, I think we've all been batted over the past two years in every shape and format. And to be able to be back as, as strong as we did was really inspiring. I had the opportunity to work with an incredible team of staff, Lisa, my co-producer, and volunteers and supporters from all around.

It was just quite, it was humbling. And I think this is something that's so needed. It's not just an event one day, just come and have fun. No, it stays with them. This spirit that gets renewed.

I had one of the trustees on the board of Port Jefferson Village, she was a volunteer directing traffic. I said, I'm so sorry, but I just need you there. You just have make sure nobody comes and drives in and kills anybody on the street here. So she was telling me and that what she felt was not just directing traffic, but hearing as people leave the fair and she's asking us, oh, what do you do? How did you have fun? What did you make? And you have these kids carrying all the inventions or things that they make in your hands. And just so excited talking about what they did for the day. She's just oh my goodness. This is they all, they're tired obviously, but they're just so excited that, they leave with that spirit.

It's something that, you know, and I have to thank you Dale, for being the brainchild, the father of the maker movement, because this is something that it's just so integral to the community.


What makes it a movement is people like you spread it in your communities and activate all the good people that, that the makers that exhibit, but also the people that come not knowing what it's about sometimes.


Mostly, they don't, they're like, what's going on?


What is a Maker Faire? I love the image of kids walking out with things in their hands, bubbly and talking about what they're gonna do next.

Thank you Angeline and Lisa for what you have done and continued to do. The adrenaline rushes right after the event you really feel it. And then it goes away and it is a little bit like, where'd that go? I love that.


There's a little bit of an adrenaline crash. We all do it because of the love


That's great.


Thank you, Dale.