Lego of Me: Canberra Brick Expo 2013

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 20th August 2013.

As a kid during the eighties, I’d look forward to the school holidays because that meant that it might be time for the Lego World Show. Once a year or so, a Grace Bros. store in Sydney would host a travelling themed display, all made from Lego bricks. I was in kid heaven exploring the larger than life creations. One year the theme was dinosaurs, the next ships of the sea, followed by the circus and then space exploration. Of course, each show would ultimately spill out into the Lego part of the toy section. I’m pretty sure a great deal of my childhood big bag of bricks was obtained via pleading and begging at the exit of the Lego World Shows.

Earlier this year, I inadvertently wandered into the Lego store in New York City with my travelling companion to discover that he was a Lego fanatic. I walked out with a few photographs and a cheap souvenir or two. Jeff carried out a couple of hundred dollars worth of playsets. And you think that you know somebody.

Fast forward a few months and Jeff has invited me to visit Brick Expo 2013 in Canberra. Held every year since 2010, the expo is a not for profit event run by the Canberra Lego Users Group, a collective of adults and children that love, well, Lego. Last year, the event raised over $40,000 to purchase much needed equipment (not made out of Lego) for the paediatric ward at the Canberra Hospital.

The first expo attracted 4,000 people. This year, the Brick Expo was the hottest ticket in town, with the event’s 12,000 tickets completely sold out. Take that Pink! Not bad for an organisation that started out a few years ago with 4 members and now boasts a membership of 70. That’s more than the Democrats.

Wandering around the expo, I was amazed to see the wide variety of styles and themes that keep the Lego nerds of Canberra off the streets: Star Wars, Batman, trains, pirates, Star Wars, cars and ships. Did I mention Star Wars?

Obviously there were plenty of displays made from official Lego kits and playsets but I was most impressed by the original creations. Apparently, it is possible to purchase bricks of almost any colour and size directly from Lego in Denmark. It works out to about 13c per brick. My favourites were a full size playable Lego guitar and a huge framed Superman picture. My respect also goes to the guy making a life size Tardis out of bricks. Blue Lego may be a little hard to come by until he finishes it.

Brick Expo is so popular that you only get a 90 minute window to explore before your session ends and you are sent on your way. Despite the incredibly complex displays on show, it was heartwarming to see kids happily sitting around and building their own creations. It reminded me of my childhood where I would spend hours building stuff, demolishing it, building again, and then sticking pieces up my nose.

Although I’m not convinced that adult Lego fandom is for me, I have a new respect for the little Danish plastic bricks and their devotees. Now please exit through the gift shop.

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