Sunday, September 02, 2012

Lego Kids Fest 2012

Austin is one of just six cities that the Lego Kids Fest is stopping at this year. I like that Austin attracts the kind of nerds that go to this kind of thing, or that host a mini maker faire.

Fortunately Rachel got us tickets well in advance, because there were signs up all over that it was sold out for both Saturday and Sunday.  That's about 5,000 tickets, times 5 sessions (including one Friday).  Pretty impressive.

There were a dozen or so stations, most of which (surprise) involved building something with a Lego theme. Ninjago got a lot of attention, and so did the girl-targeted Friends. There were some niche ones too, like Monster Fighters. But no Technic or Mindstorms. I can understand that Mindstorms would be too involved for an event like this but I was surprised not to see Technic.  There were a lot of older kids there too--wonder what Lego's strategy is for that market if not those two.

Of course there was the ever-photogenic Big Brick Pile. I'm pretty sure they picked red and white bricks because they contrast nicely in pictures like this one:

When we got there I turned Matthew loose to his own devices. "Meet me here when it's over." Melissa wanted to stick near Dad so I have pictures of her.

(Matthew told me afterwards that after we separated he realized he didn't know when it was going to end, so he kept checking the spot to see if it was time yet. Then someone told him it ended at 7:30, but he still didn't have a watch so he had to keep checking. Guess I should have told him that they'd announce when it was time to leave.)

The first thing you saw on arriving was the Garden of Lego Statues.  It was hard to get a good picture because of the crowd.  Here you can see Hagrid and Ron from Harry Potter; to the right you can see Chewbacca, Gandalf, Darth Vader's back, a Storm Trooper's helment, and the rear of Lightning McQueen.  The people in the way obscure Harry and Hermione, Frodo, C-3PO and R2-D2.  Off-frame, there was Darth Maul, Indiana Jones, a Battle Droid, the Hulk, two of Batman, and more.


As you headed past the statues, the next thing you came to on the left was a dozen racing ramps, like abbreviated Pinewood Derby tracks, and tables upon which to build racers. Melissa was immediately captivated, and built a racer while I stood in line for tickets to the Master Builder class.

I didn't get a picture of her car, because there was a wall at the end of each track, designed to keep cars from littering the rest of the show, but also effectively making most cars disposable. Melissa wasn't bothered though, the fun was in building it.

She took the Master Builder class next. She was kind of vague on what she learned, but she had fun building a space ship.

While she worked on that I went souvenir shopping -- they were already out of shirts in Melissa's size, so I got her a Lego pen instead. Matthew got a shirt, but he was slightly jealous of the pen.

Someone had the bright idea of marketing lego-sucking vacuums to the parents in attendance. Of course all the kids wanted to try it. I wonder how long the enthusiasm would last at home: a day, perhaps? I also noticed that they only used one-square blocks in their demo. Probably doesn't work as well with larger ones. (One of the salesladies told me that there was a clear pattern among the children: the girls would calmly vacuum blocks up while the boys would attack them -- which would scatter the blocks instead of picking them up.)

Next Melissa and I stopped at Creation Nation, where you could build anything you liked on a green square to become part of the communal city. Melissa made a garden that I again missed getting a picture of, then started helping this boy with his Washington Monument lookalike. (On the left is my contribution. Hey, I had to pay for my ticket, I might as well build something.)

Melissa wasn't satisfied though, and wanted to build a bigger tower.  Soon she realized what many others had: the Big Brick Pile was a better source of material than the actual Creation Nation buckets, if you wanted to go big.  More homogeneity and bigger sizes is a good combination.

Melissa was very pleased with the result:

Melissa was especially pleased that you could ask them to put your contribution wherever you wanted in the Nation.

For dedication though I don't think anyone touched this boy. He must have spent the entire event building towers at the Big Brick Pile. Alas, you could only contribute one to the Nation (unless you did it on the sly, I guess, like Melissa did accidentally), so he had to destroy all but his favorite at the end of the show. He was already about a quarter done with this before I got a picture.  He graciously let Melissa kick one down, which she did with enthusiasm.

The kids agreed that the event was AweSOME.  "We should come here more often!"  Matthew says that he heard it will be coming to San Antonio next year.  We'll see!

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