Maker Faire transforms Union Station into creative hotbed

06/29/2014 4:17 PM

06/29/2014 8:03 PM

On Sunday afternoon, Union Station looked more like a film set than a train station.

In the station’s monumental Grand Hall, two men dressed as the Predator from the 1987 Arnold Schwarzenegger movie posed for photos with fans. Fon Davis, a visual effects whiz behind “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” stood on a stage explaining how he makes models out of latex-wrapped joints and cellophane. A woman in a metallic Wonder Woman costume struck a pose near a chain mail jewelry booth, and a 10-foot-tall Stay Puft Marshmallow Man made out of 67 balloons — a nod to the 30th anniversary of “Ghostbusters” — loomed over the shoulder-to-shoulder crowds.

It was all part of the fourth annual Maker Faire, a festival celebrating innovation and creativity.

Kansas City’s Maker Faire is one of the largest of its kind in the country. More than 350 makers signed up for booths at this year’s festival — about 50 more than last year.

Inventors at this year’s Maker Faire showed off everything from cupcakes and jewelry to robots and custom cars. The drive in front of Union Station was home to a car show of glossy lowriders tricked out with chrome and hydraulics.

Six-year-old Nathan Smith of Lee’s Summit, wearing a Super Mario T-shirt, posed next to a two-tone mahogany 1939 Chevrolet as his dad, Charles Smith, snapped a photo.

“That one’s my favorite,” Nathan said, pointing to a white 2000 Chevy S-10 with orange swirls on the doors and a gray ostrich-skin interior. The truck belongs to Eric Dempsey of Blue Springs, a first-time Maker Faire participant.

Closer to Union Station’s front door, Levi White and his dad, Jeff White, both of Detroit, showed kids how to make marshmallow shooters out of PVC pipes next to a juggler tossing soccer balls high into the air.

“That was really fast,” Jeff White said when his three kids finished their marshmallow shooters. “Nice job, guys — and they’re all different.”

Brothers Ian and Gavin Macivor of Kansas City toted the marshmallow shooters they made through Union Station’s Grand Hall. As Ian got an up-close look at one of the costumed Predators, Gavin pinged off in the other direction. His parents, Rick and Jen, said they had a strategy for corralling their excitable sons through the 350 booths at Maker Faire.

“You can’t play man-to-man” defense, said Rick Macivor, who wore a Batman T-shirt. “You’ve gotta play zone.”

Union Station spokeswoman Nancy Besa says Maker Faire has become increasingly popular among families over the past four years. On Sunday, kids at Maker Faire built toys out of Legos, made molds of their hands in sand, and learned how letterpress and 3-D printers work.

“Kids these days are online a lot, playing games,” Besa said. She added that Maker Faire’s goal is to encourage them to think, “Hey, I could make that game, or model, or robot.”

To reach Sarah Gish, call 816-234-4823 or send email to sgish@kcstar.com. Follow her at Twitter.com/sarah_gish.

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