Lego-obsessed crowd packs convention every June near Chicago
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 Non-Lego 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 Lego-loving 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.
If You Go...
BRICKWORLD CHICAGO: Public expo, June 16-17 at the Renaissance Schaumburg Convention Center in Schaumburg, Illinois: https://brickworld.com/brickworld-chicago/. Weekend walk-ins, $12. Access to all five days, June 13-17, $55, or $80 to display your own Lego creations; https://brickworld.com/convention/. Online late registration, May 15-June 6.
GETTING THERE: The convention center is 12 miles from O'Hare Airport and 26 miles from downtown Chicago (via public transit, Metra's Union Pacific Northwest or Milwaukee District West train lines, then a bus to the convention area).
ACCOMMODATIONS: The Renaissance hotel onsite offers a Brickworld discount; https://brickworld.com/locationhotel/. Alternatively, the Wyndham Garden Schaumburg Chicago Northwest is a 15-minute walk away.
ELSEWHERE: Brickworld conventions are also scheduled for Wisconsin, Michigan and Indiana.