Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Setting up for a convention

It's Friday morning in Raleigh and the mood is relaxed. Most people have slept in, the result of catching a midnight showing of Iron Man 2. Those who are awake are setting up their group displays -- 20 feet of LEGO buildings, trains, streets, and cars. The displays come together in chunks, with buildings arriving whole or in geometric sections.

Small bits of humor have begun to appear in the displays. Tucked behind an armada of LEGO pirate ships, an oversized monkey figure towers over a lone inhabitant of an island, who holds up bananas in an attempt to appease the massive ape. The Green Goblin, the Spider Man villain, spies on the villagers inside a medieval market season.

The LEGO Group's booth is in the back center of the room and adult fan volunteers are busy piecing together sets. I'm in the middle of building a floor for the Grand Emporium -- a kit from LEGO set designer (and adult fan) Jamie Berard. It's a sprawling tan structure that mimics a classic department store with an escalator you make from LEGO bricks.

The easy hum of conversation intermingles with the click of bricks and the "shuh," sound of a hand swiping through a Tupperware tub searching for a part. A series of lectures will begin shortly -- presentations on getting commissions from corporations to build LEGO sculptures, customizing minifigures, and the latest with Mindstorms (LEGO robotics). I too will be giving a talk on what has suprised me most about the adult fan community and how quickly I discovered that I wasn't going to become a LEGO master model builder inside of a year.

The scene outside the 10,000 square foot ballroom has dramatically changed over the course of the morning as well. Vendors have set up armies of customized minifigures, minifig-scale weapons and armor, as well as rare or old sets. At the end of the hallway, Nathan Sawaya's art sculptures sit ready on white tables. A man in red with a cracked chest and a series of playful primarily colored men -- "hug guys" -- one of which will mysteriously latch on to the convention's sign outside the hotel the next morning.

All of these are left out by trusting fans, open, for anyone to see and enjoy.

We'll pick this one up tomorrow...

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