Tuesday, September 21, 2010

SparkCon Weekend Blast-Off

I had no idea, but apparently every year there's this big festival in Raleigh called SparkCon. I'm not going to explain what it's all about since you can read about it over at SparkCon's site. Besides, I'm not 100% sure I understand all of it anyway. But here's what SparkCon meant for M and I this past weekend (Chris was busy being a soldier - running, marching, doing paperwork, and trying to find his way in the woods without a GPS).

So, first and foremost M didn't care very much to go to a festival. That was a not-so-promising beginning. Then we got there very early and he didn't really want to do any crafts at the crafts tent. Slowly he got into it and we did a couple of projects that involved mostly stickers, but he was very cranky through it all.

Things were getting from bad to worse. As the festival was getting busier, M decided that he wouldn't walk, but rather had to be wheeled in a stroller. Fine... So we strolled the entire length of the Fayetteville Street, checking out artists that were busy creating chalk paintings. Here are some of the ones I loved the most.

Then, on the way back we spied this super-cool water sculpture and M wanted to try it out. Perfect! Finally, out of his stroller! As he waited patiently for his turn, a couple of kids in front of him knocked down the main bamboo supports and the entire installation fell down.
The embarrased parents rushed in to right it up. Just as we almost, but not quite fixed the darn thing, another little kid climbed on the low stool to pour water in, leaned on the pipe a bit too much and sent it tumbling down again. Once again, all the parents (and some passerbies) rushed in to save the moment.

In the mean time, M was running back and forth to watch the water flow down the pipes and back into the bucket. Sure thing, he tripped over the raffia strings and knocked down the ENTIRE installation. After being knocked down 3 times in about 3 minutes, this structure did not look the same any longer. The pipes were cracked and wouldn't line up. But the kids were still fascinated by it. Besides, it brought so many total strangers together as they valiantly, but vainly tried to re-build it. So I think it was definitely the most hands-on activity that required team work and fostered a sense of community at SparkCon. And for that it deserves special recognition (that's why I'm writing about it in all the details; besides it gave me a great idea for a water feature for M's playground).
Warmed up with all this fixing-things stuff, we stopped by the ScrapExchange tent. Let me tell you, it's been so much fun that now I'm thinking about taking M to Durham at some point to their studio for some extended crafting. I mean, how can it not be super-duper awesome - there are bags and boxes and barrells filled to the bream with all sorts of scraps - fabric, plastic parts of all shapes and sizes, paper, sticky paper, stickers, tape, yarn, etc, etc - and you and your kid are left to create something out of all (or part) of it using nothing but scissors and again, some sticky tape. Awesome awesomeness, that's what I call it!

Evidently many other people shared my opinion because it was easily the busiest place on Fayetteville St in the early afternoon. And I think parents got into the building process with as much or more enthusiasm than their little ones. A couple of boys and their dads built rockets and, predictably, set off a chain reaction - now every boy wanted to make a rocket. M was no exception. It took us a little while, but we've our first rocket. It was held together primarily with stickers and rubberbands (I won't be surprised if NASA hires M or me one of these days).

After that it was time to go 'cause it was getting late and M was obviously tired. But he made me promise that we'd return the next day to build an even bigger rocket. To be perfectly honest, he didn't have to push too hard on this one. Come to think of it, I might've even suggested this idea to him myself and he replied "Hooray!".

The next day, Sunday, both of us could hardly wait for the festival to open. We got to the ScrapExchange tent and for a few minutes were the only ones. Right away, we started on the rocket. But it was a bigger one, with a more advanced design and, after the Saturday stumpede, fewer materials to work with. Took us a bit longer, but we've managed. Well, M mostly kept bringing me various odds and ends and asking to add them to the rocket. That's, for example, why our rocket is probably the only one with an attached hanger (hey, every rocket needs it to weather the storms in; yeah, I know, it's spelled differently).
And then we built a few other things - a pair of binoculars that gave M an idea to build a robot that he named ZigZag-a-Roll (yeah, sometimes he surprises me with the names he picks). If you look at the robot carefully, you can still see the binoculars - they are now robot's legs. Finally, M fashioned a gun (what else) out of some spare parts.

It was time to move on and we walked down the street, admiring the chalk art. Ok, I was doing the admiring and M was mostly insisting on moving on. Then we got to the blocks area where for a while M was the only kid for a while. He promptly collected all the blocks and attempted to build a house with a door, but ended up with a tall long wall. Still, he was happy with the result and so was I.
That, plus a few hot dogs and a bucket of french fries really made his weekend!

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