Fortcraft: Building Worlds With Cardboard At Treefort

Mar 24, 2017

Boise’s Treefort Music Fest is well underway and events like Hackfort, Storyfort and Filmfort are just part of the fun. This year, Kidfort will once again bring concerts, crafts and interactive events to a younger audience. New this year is an idea dreamed up by one Boise man who wants kids to put down their electronics and start building things out of cardboard.

Travis Olson’s tiny backyard is full of cardboard. There are cut up boxes piled on the lawn and tape everywhere. And volunteers are cutting out pieces of a cardboard mascot for Olson’s Treefort event, which he calls Fortcraft.

Olson says the germ of an idea started over the holidays, when his nephew came to visit.

“One morning as the meals were being created and we sort of needed to spend a lot of time with Harris, I just decided to make a fort with him. And we spent the entire morning just creating this little world and it was amazing,” Olson says.

Olson says he’s not a professional fort maker; he’s a graphic designer by trade. But he grew up on a farm in the middle of North Dakota and built countless forts. It was a big part of his growing up. He says it’s a very tactile thing that kids just don’t do anymore.

“They spend plenty of time in front of screens and tapping things. But to actually build something out of material that just comes out of their imagination is pretty amazing,” says Olson.

Olson was having coffee with a friend and they started talking about Treefort, playing off the name and asked each other why aren’t kids building forts at Treefort? So he wrote up a one-page idea, sent it to Treefort and got a “yes” the next day. That was six weeks ago. Since then, he’s been gathering up all the cardboard he can find.

Travis Olson has been hoarding cardboard for weeks, preparing for Fortcraft. His best finds are in dumpsters behind furniture stores.
Credit Samantha Wright / Boise State Public Radio

“Mainly I found some really good dumpsters behind furniture shops. I’ll patrol alleys and when you see the overflowing cardboard dumpster, that’s the one that you need to keep going back to because you know it will continue to fill up every week,” explains Olson.

He plans to take all that cardboard to Fortcraft at Treefort this weekend. There, kids will be invited to start building out of cardboard, tape and chalk.

“We’re not going to have very many rules. It’s certainly called Fortcraft, but kids can do whatever they want with the cardboard,” Olson says.

Fortcraft is new this year to Treefort. It will be part of Kidfort, a series of events designed for younger festival goers. Kidfort Director Emily Williams says Kidfort keeps getting bigger.

One of Olson's volunteers builds the "eye" of the Fortcraft mascot.
Credit Samantha Wright / Boise State Public Radio

“That’s how the festival has grown, is through people like Travis who had a really great idea, presented it and we thought, of course, that’s such a great thing, why would we not add that into our Kidfort programming?” asks Williams.

She says Fortcraft will have a home next to the Kidfort Nest stage in downtown Boise. She even plans to bring her kids to Travis Olson’s creation.

“He really is the poster child of what Treefort Music Fest aims to highlight, is people’s creative passions, people’s love for the arts, love for music and then sharing that and exchanging it with other people, that’s really what it’s all about,” says Williams.

The pieces of the Fortcraft mascot come together in Travis Olson's backyard.
Credit Samantha Wright / Boise State Public Radio

Back in Olson’s backyard, Fortcraft’s mascot is coming together as volunteers cut out a red cardboard banner and a black cardboard crown. The mascot is made up of boxes, with a giant eyeball painted on top. He says it was a simple design and easy to build and hopes it inspires kids at the event.

Olson says volunteers at the event will handle all the cardboard cutting, for safety. And they’ll offer suggestions to kids like build a suit of armor or try making a robot. But he says it’s really up to them.

“Anything they make is going to be great. It’s not about perfection, it’s not about building the best fort or the perfect fort, it’s your fort. I think that’s more important than anything,” Olson says.

Fortcraft, like almost all the events at Kidfort, is free, and it’s open to the public. Olson says he hopes it becomes an annual Treefort event. He just hopes it doesn’t rain and that he doesn’t run out of cardboard.

Fortcraft runs Saturday and Sunday, in the parking lot of the Idaho Power building, starting at noon each day, at Kidfort.

Find Samantha Wright on Twitter @samwrightradio

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