Maker Faire returns to Balboa Park

By Margie M. Palmer

The third annual Maker Faire San Diego will return to Balboa Park on Oct. 7-8 and as in years past, artist, creators and do-it-yourselfers will fill a myriad of venues with everything from robots to lasers to roller coaster replicas.

Save Starlight campaign volunteers to participate in Maker Faire (Maker Faire)

This year’s event boasts nine participating venues including the San Diego Museum of Man, the Fleet Science Center and the San Diego Model Railroad Museum, along with two outdoor areas.

More than 250 makers will participate. Visitors will have a greater variety of things to see and more hands-on exhibits than ever before, said Cody Nelson, director of events and public programs for the Balboa Park Cultural Partnership, which runs Maker Faire San Diego.

“There is always something new and different every year, from the types of makers that exhibit to the projects that they are presenting,” Nelson said. “A maker that exhibited one project last year could easily exhibit something completely different this year. We also try to bring back fan favorites like Robot Resurrection.”

North Park resident Tim Cole to show off his Cyclone Racer art piece (Maker Faire)

North Park artist Tim Cole said this will be his third consecutive year participating in Maker Faire. Cole said he was first approached by an event organizer in 2014, when they saw him working at a local coffee shop on a reconstruction of the Airplane Coaster, a wooden roller coaster that operated at Playland Amusement Park in Rye, New York from 1928 to 1957.

“After he described the type of event that it was, it sounded like a place I would fit right in,” Cole said, adding that he hopes his exhibit will help show the younger generation that there are things they can do with their hands that extend beyond poking a touch screen.

“I’m also looking forward to seeing if I can convince people that roller coasters aren’t just a ride, but beautiful structures on the landscape.”

Steve Stopper, the Save Starlight founder and CEO, is among those who will be participating for the first time. While the nonprofit doesn’t build roller coaster replicas or electric zoo animals, Save Starlight signed on as a means of highlighting some of the technology the organization would like to see implemented as part of the renovation plans for Balboa Park’s Starlight Bowl.

The initiative of Save Starlight, Stopper said, surrounds the revitalization and restoration of the old amphitheater, which has fallen into a state of disrepair since it was closed in 2012.

Once the renovation is complete, the foundation envisions a venue for performances, concerts, cinema, festivals, plays, community events and musical theater.

Steve Stopper outside the Starlight Bowl. (Maker Faire)

“[Although] many people find Starlight’s location under the [San Diego International Airport] flight path problematic, we plan to use creative solutions to integrate our environment and its elements rather than try to resist them,” Stopper said.

“We are researching technology such as noise-cancelling headsets and are considering shows that incorporate the airplane noise into the production itself. Our goal is to inform and raise awareness about our efforts and present a few examples of the technology we plan to implement at Starlight. We’re looking forward to getting the community excited about the endless possibilities for Starlight Bowl.


—Margie M. Palmer is a freelance writer who has been racking up bylines in a myriad of news publications for the past 10 years. You can reach her at To read Palmer’s feature story on Tim Cole, titled “A roller-coaster life,” go to

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