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BrickFair 2010 Recap

With the good time I had with my buddy Lee at BrickFair 2009, I decided I wanted to go back for the 2010 edition.  Unfortunately for me, Lee took a new job and was unable to attend this year.  Fortunately for him, that job was with Lego in Denmark and this was supposed to be his last weekend in New York.  Instead, late in the evening Thursday, my friend Mike and I hit the road for some good ol’ Lego fun.

Day 1

At 2am Thursday night, Mike came by, we packed my things into the car and headed down to the Dulles Expo Center, right outside Washington, D.C.  The five hour drive through darkness brought us to the convention center at 7am, as the event volunteers were setting up and organizing (which had begun the day before).  My speaking at the convention later in the day got us access to start bringing our MOCs (My Own Creation, the term for custom built sculptures) and setting up them up in the proper areas.  With our Lego items, removed from the car, Mike and I hit breakfast and returned in time for the rest of the exhibitors to join us.

My MOCs this year included a few from last year and a few new ones.  They included Touristbot, a Green Lantern Power Battery, a TARDIS, the Chaotic Computer, the Castle Computer, the Android and some video game sprites.  10 MOCs in all to display to my fellow AFOLs (Adult Fans Of Lego) and the general public.

The number of attendees went up from last year, from 600 to 800, so there were plenty of new faces to meet to talk with.   Friday is the relaxed day, where people find spaces, set up their MOCs and mingle.  Assorted seminars occur, where people speak on different topics that may be of interest to fellow attendees.  At 2pm, I spoke on Lego and the Arduino Microcontroller (a version of the talk will be on this site in the near future).  The talk went pretty well except for one issue.  I was told I would have a projector, which I didn’t have, so they went out and bought one, but someone borrowed the VGA cable and didn’t return it for my talk.  Unfortunately, I had planned to use it to show different Arduinos, Arduino code and other related visuals.  It impacted my talk because I couldn’t go as in depth as I had wanted to, but otherwise I thought it went well.

Once my talk was over, I went to hear Jamie Berard, a Lego designer who was originally from the US but works for Lego in Denmark, speak about what it is like to design Lego professionally and how their design process works.  It was at this talk that the Tower Bridge set was announced for the first time anywhere.   Following Jamie’s talk, we hung out for a bingo game whose prizes were some fairly high end Lego sets and then the opening ceremonies.  The lead organizer, Todd Webb, welcomed attendees and gave us all information about the convention for an hour before Steve Witt of the Lego group held a Q&A.  At this time, Mike and I decided it was time to check into our hotel, wash up and find dinner.

After a dinner of Chipotle, it was time to go to the Tyson’s Corner for the Running of the Bulls.  The Running of the Bulls is a sale wherein Lego sells high end damaged sets to attendees for 50% off.  This year, the rules were changed to be more organized. People were given a color code and shape and were organized according to them in a long line that went pretty fast once we were allowed to go in.  The first time into the store, you were allowed one damaged item and that was it. The second time through the store, two damaged items, but you could purchase regular items off the shelves at a tiered discount.  After the second round, Mike and I decided 40 hours awake was enough and headed back to the hotel instead of joining the third and fourth waves, the fourth of which only had 7 people.

My purchases that night included a Death Star™ in the first round and a Green Grocer and Motorized Walking AT-AT™ in the second round – in addition to a Pizza Planet Truck Rescue. The strangest part of the Running of the Bulls was the palettes of AT-ATs that seemed like there were more AT-ATs than attendees – to which an AFOL named Sabrina told me she started the AT-AT Adoption Society that night for all those homeless AT-ATs.

Day 2

After much needed sleep and a decent breakfast in the hotel, it was time to return to the convention center for the first of the two public days.  Mike and I returned as the public were already filing in and I ran to start my projects and get Touristbot taking pictures.  My sculptures were spread out and I ran back and forth checking on them, talking about them and keeping busy.  It wasn’t until lunch that something happened.  Mike and I walked out to grab some fast food with fellow attendees and were gone for about a half hour.  When we returned to the convention center, we stopped off at the info desk to see what games would be running that evening and see which we wanted to sign up to play.  As we’re talking, I look out and see a mother grab her son and smack him in front of Touristbot.  Seeing this, I sprint across the 20-30 feet between the desk and the Mindstorms tables to see Touristbot’s head slumped over.  The pins holding its head in place were bent and broken.  Thanks to a fellow AFOL in the area, I was able to get a replacement pin and perform a triage and get him working again.

As 4:30pm came, I was glad to see the public attendees leave.  It was time to relax, take an hour to decompress and hit the Yard Sale, where exhibitors were able to sell things in a flea market type setting in the cafe area of the convention center.  Once that was done, Mike and I headed out to run some errands before Adult Swim.  Adult Swim is when all attendees under 21 are removed from the convention center, and the adults can drink and relax without worrying about children in the area.  In our efforts to get back in time for it and the Texas Hold ‘Em game, we didn’t get to pick up anything for dinner, so my drinking far outweighed the Oreo cookies I had for dinner.  As for the poker games, I came in 10th in the “Lego game,” which was the game that was part of Brickfest that gave Lego prizes (I received a $3 set for my place), and came in in the middle of a buy in poker game that spontaneously occurred, but first place got the money and second got their buy-in back.

Once the convention center kicked us out at 2am, a group of us spent time in the green room in the hotel talking about the convention, shooting the shit and just chilling out before slowly dispersing back to our individual rooms.

Day 3

Our alcohol fueled lack of sleep had Mike and I rolling out late that morning, and upon finding out that we woke up too late for breakfast at the hotel, we hit the convention center for the second public day.  Once I got my sculptures started, I noticed that Touristbot was not taking pictures properly.  Upon examination, it seemed that after a year, parts of Touristbot were wearing down and needed to be repaired and replaced.  I rearranged certain parts and moved the worn pins to places where it wouldn’t matter.  It was some time after noon when Touristbot was up and running for the rest of the day.

As I was fixing Touristbot, my friend Miranda came by, so I got to spend time looking at the convention with her before heading to lunch with AFOLs again.  On the recommendation of friends, I wanted to try Chic-Fil-A, but they are closed Sundays company wide, so it was not to be this trip.  Once the fast food was consumed, it was back to the convention center to deal with the final hordes of the public.  As 4:30pm hit, cleanup began and the breakdown of MOCs began.  A solid hour of Lego and displays being disassembled until the closing ceremonies, where Todd once again addressed the crowd.  He recapped the weekend and gave us the official statistics.  9,700 people came through on Saturday and 9,800 on Sunday, when added with the 800 exhibitors, there were over 20,000 attendees overall in the convention center that weekend, which was double the previous year.  The sets The Lego Group displayed were again given away (this time I got a Space Police set) and it was time to pack up and go.

Mike and I joined a group of AFOLs for dinner at a local restaurant before hitting the road.  Of course, we were having such a good time with everyone, we started out hours later than we had planned, but I was home and unpacked all my things from Mike’s truck by 3am.

Again, BrickFair was an enriching experience for me creatively, but it leaves me just wanting to create even more.  Like last year, I am taking time off building to not get too burnt out from the rush before BrickFair.  It does leave me looking forward to next year, where I am considering taking a more active part in organizing by volunteering to help out.

To see my pictures from the event, check out my BrickFair 2010 set on Flickr.  And to see Touristbot’s pictures from BrickFair 2010, check out his collection on Flickr.

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