Lego-Ob­sessed Older Crowd Packs Con­ven­tion Ev­ery June Near Chicago


SCHAUMBURG, Ill. (AP) — If you think five straight days of Lego are for the kid­die set, think again.

Brick­world Chicago is a con­ven­tion aimed at adults. Teens are wel­come. So are tweens. But bet­ter nab a grown-up, boys and girls, if you want to hang with this Lego-ob­sessed crowd. Chil­dren un­der 18 must be ac­com­pa­nied by adults.

And no skate­board­ing, please, on the ex­hi­bi­tion floor. No need to ask why, what with hun­dreds of painstak­ingly crafted Lego cre­ations fill­ing the hall.

Ev­ery June, Lego en­thu­si­asts from around the world de­scend on this north­west­ern Chicago sub­urb to build Le­gos, dis­play Le­gos, play Le­gos, talk Le­gos, swap Le­gos and win Le­gos. They watch Lego mini-fig­ure films pro­duced by fel­low en­thu­si­asts, and play Lego bingo us­ing cards with mini-fig­ure char­ac­ters in­stead of num­bers and let­ters. They see who can build the most mini-fig­ures in two min­utes flat.

This year’s con­ven­tion is slated for June 13-17. The theme is “Sea­sons.”

In the Dirty Build­ster com­pe­ti­tion, par­tic­i­pants ex­change ran­dom Lego pieces, grab-bag style, and try to outdo each other with their con­coc­tions. In hopes of set­ting a GBC (Great Ball Con­trap­tion) world record, they line up GBCs one af­ter the other — some rel­a­tively sim­ple, oth­ers crazy com­pli­cated — to fun­nel the mini Lego soc­cer balls from de­vice to de­vice. Last sum­mer, the con­tin­u­ous cir­cuit cov­ered 26 long ta­bles.

Lego ma­chines bat­tle, Lego flow­ers bloom, Lego trains chug, Lego space­craft hover, Lego bridges loom, Lego su­per­heroes pose, Lego ta­bles and stools ac­tu­ally func­tion, along with Lego TV con­soles and Lego re­frig­er­a­tor cases.

A Lego bell­man even greets guests stay­ing at the Re­nais­sance Schaumburg Con­ven­tion Cen­ter Ho­tel, an hour’s train ride from down­town Chicago, while a restau­rant there of­fers “Lego of My Chick” chicken-and-waf­fle sand­wiches.

Lo­cal univer­sity stu­dent Casey Mc­Coy will be back for his eighth Brick­world Chicago, this time to help to run its film fes­ti­val. Last year, he show­cased a self-por­trait made of more than 3,000 Lego bricks that took him three weeks to build. For the up­com­ing Brick­world, he cre­ated a 3,000-plus-brick por­trait of char­ac­ter Eleven from the Net­flix se­ries “Stranger Things.” It took him 13 hours.

“The very best part of Brick­world is meet­ing new peo­ple, getting to know their life sto­ries, what makes them tick, why they love build­ing,” Mc­Coy, 22, said via email. Putting a face to an on­line avatar — “meet­ing some­one from the on­line world” — is es­pe­cially sat­is­fy­ing, he wrote.

If you go, you’ll need to know some Lego acronyms. MOC stands for My Own Cre­ation, as op­posed to a stan­dard-is­sued Lego kit. AFOL is short­hand for Adult Fans of Lego, TFOL for Teen Fans of Lego, NLSO for NonLego Sig­nif­i­cant Other.

I fell into that last cat­e­gory when my 11-year-old son and I at­tended last sum­mer’s “Lights, Cam­era, Bricks” con­ven­tion at the Schaumburg Con­ven­tion Cen­ter, not long af­ter the re­lease of “The Lego Bat­man Movie.” The staff as­sured me that my Le­golov­ing tween would fit in, but warned that late-night so­cials were strictly for those of le­gal age and that it was my re­spon­si­bil­ity, as mom, to re­move him from ma­ture con­ver­sa­tions or sit­u­a­tions.

No wor­ries there. We were back in our ho­tel fol­low­ing the mostly G-rated evening re­cep­tions, speeches and char­ity auc­tions. And ex­cept for a mild curse word or two, con­ver­sa­tions were pretty tame.

The 2017 con­ven­tion at­tracted ap­prox­i­mately 1,000 reg­is­trants. Week­end days, open to the pub­lic, at­tracted 10,000 peo­ple.

In­ter­est­ingly, while AFOLs live to build and love show­ing off their MOCs to other AFOLs, they can get ag­i­tated when the pub­lic ar­rives. They worry a young­ster will bump and de­stroy the cre­ation, thus the sud­den ap­pear­ance of guide rails in the aisles come Satur­day morn­ing. There also are the dreaded ques­tions.

Try an­swer­ing “How long did it take you to build this?” and “How many pieces are in this?” again and again and again. Even worse: “Did you glue the pieces to­gether?”

Kra­gle is an evil word among this crowd. (That’s a con­trac­tion for Krazy Glue for those of you who didn’t see 2014’s “The Lego Movie.”)

Smile and be kind when re­mind­ing the crowd not to touch, AFOLs were ad­vised in the pri­vate open­ing cer­e­mony.

So if you re­ally want to im­press these Lego mas­ters of the uni­verse, do NOT ask them how long it took to build their cre­ation, how many pieces there are, and whether their master­piece is glued.

And what­ever you do, don’t touch.

Photo con­trib­uted

This June 2017 photo taken at Brick­world Chicago in Schaumburg, Ill., shows Chicago-area col­lege stu­dent Casey Mc­Coy and the self­por­trait he cre­ated from more than 3,000 Lego bricks. Ev­ery June, Lego en­thu­si­asts from around the world de­scend on Schaumburg, a north­west­ern sub­urb of Chicago, to build Le­gos, dis­play Le­gos, play Le­gos, swap Le­gos, win Le­gos and more. This year’s con­ven­tion is June 13-17.

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