Pictured Above: East End Jazz: (l-r) Bill Smith, Olivia Foschi and Iris Ornig at the Maker Fair



It’s been five years since the Peconic Community School was last able to hold a Maker Fair, its annual spring gathering of inventors, fixers, potters and tinkerers, scientists, farmers, cooks, musicians and writers, who come together to share their skills with the community, due to the upheaval wrought by pandemic health concerns.

This past Saturday, April 13, the event was back in force at the school’s new forever home at the former Our Lady of Mercy school on the Main Road in Cutchogue, and, despite the wind, the mood was a celebratory one, filled with what many educators call STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math,” a reminder to keep the arts central despite a societal focus on STEM education, which leaves out the arts.

And makers were happily sharing their advice on how to set out turning your passion into something tangible.

Rachel Stephens of Sweet Woodland Farms

Rachel Stephens of Sweet Woodland Farm was sharing the process for making elderberry tinctures and syrup, which is filled with Vitamin C and antioxidants to boost your immune system.

Her advice for a budding farmer?

“Start small and accept the fact that there will be crops that do not succeed,” she said. “Keep your expectations in line and work with nature. Every day is a learning process. You have to learn to give up control.”

Authors Geoffrey Wells and Peggy Dickerson

Geoffrey Wells, who has written a trilogy of thrillers including “The Drowning Bay,” which takes place in the Peconics, and “Never Less,” a middle grades novel about opioid addiction, recommends the book “Story Genius” by Lisa Cron for anyone interested in becoming a writer.

“it’s a discipline, and it’s about character. You have to write half your book before you right your book,” he said. “A character has a predicament, and it comes out of that. It’s silently read by millions of writers because it’s so good.”

Peggy Dickerson, author of the 2019 children’s book “Moonglow,” woke up inspired on a moonlit night with the words in her head “Have you ever seen a night that looked so bright, it looked like daylight?” She jumped out of bed and began writing, and this became the first line of the book, a whimslcal story about local animals frolicking on the moonlight night. As an educator for 30 years, she was sure to fill the last few pages with information about the animals and the moon.

Allison LaBarbera shows off a piece of fulgurite, formed when lightning hits sand.

PCS parent Allison LaBarbera has always enjoyed the magic of rocks and the power of crystals, and she began making jewelry out of natural elements about eight years ago. She was teaching attendees how to solder at the Maker Fair.

“It’s really cool to find your favorite treasures and make them into pieces of art,” she said, holding the rapt attention of kids of all ages as she explained the process by which many crystals are formed.

A trio from East End Jazz, a new non-profit devoted to jazz education in local schools, set up on the basketball court.

“Listen and react. Active listening is the key,” was the advice of the group’s vocalist, Olivia Foschi. “Take the leap. Follow your heart.”

As the band was breaking down, kids began piling onto the court with drumsticks in their hands, making a beeline for a semicircle of spackle buckets, intent on making their own joyous noise. And why not? The humble cardboard box, Maker Fair organizers remind us, is in the National Toy Hall of Fame.

Beth Young
Beth Young is an award-winning local journalist who has been covering the East End since the 1990s. She began her career at the Sag Harbor Express and, after receiving her Masters from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, has reported for the Southampton Press, the East Hampton Press and the Times/Review Media Group. She founded the East End Beacon website in 2013, and a print edition in 2017. Beth was born and raised on the North Fork. In her spare time, she tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

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