Spark Makerspace brings interactive street festival to New London

New London — At the Tiny Town interactive street festival this weekend, visitors can look around tiny houses and a yurt, participate in startup workshops, vote in a mock mayoral election and more.

Tiny Town is a two-day event produced by Spark Makerspace, and to Spark founder Hannah Gant, all the events are about two words: igniting potential.

"We've got all the ingredients to success but we haven't figured out the recipe," Gant said of New London, which she views as a city on the verge. She explained the concept of Tiny Town: "It's a street festival event trying to help provide support for people to learn the recipe."

Tiny Town will be held on Friday and Saturday, with events happening on Golden Street between Green and Bank streets. Gant's vision is an event that is interactive rather than just consumptive, on the belief that "people are tired of being entertained."

The "tiny" element of Tiny Town will be manifested in two tiny houses, a yurt, and a tiny fairy house contest for kids.

One tiny house sits in the Spark courtyard and is still under construction. Building began as part of a two-week course the Vermont-based Yestermorrow Design/Build School brought to New London.

The other tiny house, at 200 square feet, was built by a couple in Woodbury.

The Mongolian-style yurt comes from Peter van Geldern, a communications professor at the University of Bridgeport and a sustainability architect. Van Geldern gave the yurt to Jon Day, a Ledyard-based restoration and preservation specialist who served as the liaison between Spark and Yestermorrow for the design/build course.

For the tiny fairy house contest, kids should bring their creation to Tiny Town by 11 a.m. on Saturday. Awards, which include Children's Museum and movie theater passes, will be given out at 5 p.m.

Tiny Town will kick off on Friday with an hour-long historic walking tour, hosted by New London Landmarks, that costs $15 and leaves from 86 Golden St. at 4 p.m. There will also be a walking tour on Saturday at 11 a.m.

From 4 to 6 p.m. on Friday is the "I'm a Good Listener" station at 38 Green St. for visitors to talk about "ideas in life." Gant explained that the volunteers are self-identified good listeners like counselors, life coaches and clergy members.

At 6:30 p.m., candidates for the mayor of Tiny Town will converge at Golden and Green streets, known as Tiny Town Center, to give their stump speeches. The mayor will be elected in a system where one dollar equals one vote, with the money raised going to an organization of the candidate's choosing.

Tiny Town mayor is an honorary title that does not hold any responsibilities.

The candidates are Gant, van Geldern, former state Rep. Aundre Bumgardner, Yestermorrow president Mike Crowley and "economic performance artist" Kyra Kristof.

"I'm committed to building communities that work and building a world that works for everybody," van Geldern said in a campaign video he posted on Vimeo.

He offered three takeaways for building intentional communities: great leadership, dynamic governance and authentic communication.

While van Geldern is running for a symbolic role, real-life elected officials will be giving speeches starting at 5 p.m. on Saturday. Gant said this will include Rep. Chris Soto, Rep. Christine Conley, Sen. Paul Formica and potentially others.

Saturday events starting at 10 a.m. include business coaching from SCORE mentors, another listening station, and a swap meet, a chance for people to bring items they no longer want and to take those that others are giving away.

The Connecticut Small Business Development Center is hosting two Lean Startup workshops on Saturday, one from 10 a.m. to noon and the other from 1 to 3 p.m. The first is to help budding entrepreneurs from concept to launch, while the second is for managing growth in existing startups.

Each workshop costs $20 and takes place at 13 Golden St.

Throughout Tiny Town, there will be cuisine from local food entrepreneurs Jacquie Riddle and Lacy Donovan.

"My hope is to gain a lot of new clients, or at least get my name out there, my brand out there," Donovan said. "But it's also great to be representing Spark, because they've done so much for me."

Donovan will be serving salmon cakes with a slaw, lemon aioli and potato salad. For her business Guiltless Eating to Go, she creates ready-to-eat, low-calorie packaged meals that people can order online for around $10.

A full schedule for Tiny Town can be found at tinytownevents.com/event-schedule.

e.moser@theday.com

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