Brick Fiesta: Where LEGO Becomes a Lifestyle
Though I've been a LEGO fan since I was a kid, I didn't really realize just how widespread a community was encompassed by the little plastic bricks until I ran across an unbelievable cityscape that the Texas LEGO User Group (LUG) had on display at the 2011 Comicpalooza. Longer than Jaws and consisting of six figures worth of bricks, it was an awe-inspiring testament to the enduring legacy of the product. Even then, I wasn't really impressed until Imagine Rigney busted out a build representing Rapture from BioShock. Now, he's building Cthulhu.
Jef With One F Tampa by the GFLUG
If that's not enough to get you interested then nothing is, so I relished to chance for a backstage pass to the Brick Fiesta convention here in Houston. TLUG member TJ Avery was kind enough to introduce me around to the huge room full of imaginative creations and let me tour through the fine things users had brought.
Avery, like most folks, began building with bricks as a child, and as he acquired more and more pieces from various sets, he set out to start constructing things that never made it into the instruction books. For a hundred feet in either direction, entire cities were laid out with intricate detail. Avery told us that the collaborative city builds are the most popular creations, with train sets not far behind.
Jef With One F Batman by Evan Bacon
One such city was a dead-on representation of downtown Tampa, brought by trailer by the Greater Florida LUG. Robin Werner showed off bits of the masterpiece, including a light-up version of the Sun Trust building. The real-life structure has LED light displays used to commemorate things like special events, and the LEGO build follows suit.
You could get lost for hours staring at the model. All throughout its streets are hundreds, maybe thousands of tiny details that each tell their own little story. You'll be glancing over the city, focusing on the mammoth, man-high buildings, when all of a sudden you're stopped dead by the hot dog cart, the SmartCar, the foliage on the trees, tiny birds, signs, whatever any random figure might be doing.
It's like the first time you play a giant sandbox video game, and you realize that there is a whole culture that doesn't involve you at all and exists whether you interact with it or not. It comes to life, especially when it's down with such precision as the GFLUG build.
"Call up Tampa on Google Earth," said Werner, "and this is more or less what it looks like."