The American football field is a place of confluence. It is where communities join together to share in sport, music, food, dance, victory and defeat. The field and its rituals are standards of American culture. For a short time during the off-season, a number of these fields will be host to another grand event in a place where communities already know to gather.
The Space Fair is a traveling exhibition of space science dedicated to bringing an immersive educational experience to the people of rural communities who live too far away from metropolitan areas where such institutions can afford to exist. In a world where an intransigent population is often more willing to believe information delivered by the famous than the learned, the scientific method is a stalwart path for shared discovery and the cultivation of critical thought. The Space Fair is an effort at building a bridge, stirring the imaginations, and continuing the egalitarian ideals that began the movie theatre-like typology of a century of planetariums. The Fair has a number of booths and pavilions with different foci, for instance: the real science depicted in science-fiction, future extra-planetary colonization, and a local science competition in which local school children are encouraged to compete. The event is run in part by students from regional colleges, who bring home their research and share their discoveries using the Fair’s collection of scientific instruments and models on display. Furthermore, by equipping the booths with dim lights and avoiding the use the field lights, the Fair revels in stargazing events made possible in the vast, dark skies of rural America.
The highlight of the Fair is the Planetarium, which at the end of the main thoroughfare of booths. The Planetarium is an outdoor temporary structure where visitors move through and orbit around two translucent, inflated spheres. Projectors on the inside of these inflatable spheres can transform these objects into anything; from the familiar to the speculative. Speakers along the path give different accounts of the program being presented, based on the visitor’s location on that path, demonstrating the scientific journey of discovery as layers of information are revealed. The program is no longer a one-way performance, but a social experience that encourages conversation, device and media use, and movement through space. The Fair will draw inhabitants of the rural region toward the chosen small town, giving that town an economic stimulus and leaving its residents with a broader understanding of space science, a shared stake in their scientific community, and hopefully a transformative experience that engenders a new generation of American scientists.