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My Soapbox: Jason Langdon, Cincinnati Mini-Maker Faire

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Jason Langdon visited his first Maker Faire last year in San Mateo, California. Though he didn't know it, he was headed into the eye of the "maker culture" storm—the place where the the part-science fair and part-county fair started in 2006.

Langdon, 39, is a Cincinnati native and associate creative director at Possible. He had headed west with his wife, Abby Langdon of AbbyDid and the Broadhope Art Collective, on a plush product adventure. 

Impressed by the spectacle and creativity of what he saw at the Maker Faire, he found it hard to believe that Cincinnati wasn't included on the list of hundreds of spin-off Faires around the country. He determined to change that, and as a result, the region's first mini-Maker Faire is set for October in Washington Park.

Founders say that Maker Faires attract "tech enthusiasts, crafters, educators, tinkerers, hobbyists, engineers, science clubs, authors, artists, students and commercial exhibitors." It's not a craft show so much as a celebration of people who love to experiment, to make things and to share their ideas and techniques with fans of all ages.

At Faires around the country, attractions have included human-size mouse traps, a giant Hand of Man robot and hacker races. Langdon would love to see some outrageous ideas proposed, so he's kept the event free for exhibitors who aren't selling any wares, while those who have items for sale will have a minimal charge. Applications are now being accepted.

A maker himself and the father of two young children, Langdon hasn't let obstacles like scheduling challenges and partnering with the national Maker network slow him down. With two founding organizations—hacker space Hive13 and the West side artists' collective, Broadhope — he's looking forward to creating opportunities for techie nerds, crafters and artists of all media to unite for a day of learning and exploration. 

He shared his ideas and experiences so far with Soapbox's Elissa Yancey.

What is a Maker Faire?
Maker Faire is a celebration of the maker movement. It celebrates creativity and invention and resourcefulness. It's about people making things that are new and different or just learning the skills that are needed to do things or make things themselves.

What makes it different from other events in the city?
It's not a commercial event. You can sell things, but that's not the purpose of it. You can make anything you want and share it with people without judgment. There's no criteria you have to hit, and you're not trying to make a living out of it necessarily. 

It's not a shark tank. People are there because they genuinely have a passion for making something.

There's going to be a lot of learning and entertainment. It is kid-friendly but it's not just for kids.

Why now? How would you describe the local maker culture? 
There is a lot going on right now, and there's a lot of life downtown, and a lot of people following their dreams. There's less of an emphasis on being the next Bill Gates.
 
I think it would be great to inspire kids with this kind of thing. That's why I wanted to do it in Washington Park. A lot of the Maker Faires are ticketed and in suburbs. I wanted it to be something for people who are not going to get exposed to this kind of passion and drive to experience. I think Washington Park is the perfect place.

What inspires you?
I like big spectacles. We're probably not going to have a ton of them the first year. The exciting part is not knowing what you're going to see.

What's the most underrated thing about living in Cincinnati?
I think our downtown is under-appreciated. When I was growing up, we would go downtown for Reds or Bengals games. That was it. We have a great downtown.

What can Cincinnati do better?
We can think of the city as a city and not a business park. You can't rely on commercial ventures to build everything. The city needs streetcars. Maybe it shouldn't take 20 years to do a Banks project.

Elissa Yancey is Managing Editor of Soapbox.
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