The Tennessee Valley LEGO Club returned to Birmingham over MLK weekend for the second annual BrickFair, AL. This was a great event which saw record participation from the club and our largest layout to date (not to mention the largest single display at BrickFair). In addition to the town & train layout, the club also presented several MOCs which covered a variety of themes. Charles returned with his Cube Solver, Matt & Lisa brought a large campground and the much anticipated Mindstorms version of "Johnny #5" and Caleb showed off his Ninjago Fire Beacon, to name a few.
Charles demonstrating the Cube Solver
Matt & Lisa's campground
Caleb's Ninjago Fire Beacon
In addition to the layouts and MOCs that the public gets to see and enjoy, exhibitors may partake in a variety of activities throughout the weekend. As a result, there are a lot of support and organizational roles that need to be filled and our club took on many of those responsibilities. Chris returned as Bingo Caller with Jared assisting, Lisa hosted the parts draft, Will coordinated the "Dirty Buildster" game, Matt hosted the "Dirty Brickster" exchange, Pete served as the Train & Town theme coordinator and Jennifer prepared a seminar.
Jared & Chris (seated): AKA the "Bingo Duo"
Dr. Garland starts class, or perhaps this is simply Jennifer talking LEGO...
Jennifer's seminar on "Engaging the Audience" was well received and Todd would probably have her present it every year if he had his way. Everyone also enjoyed hearing from Kevin Hinkle, LEGO's North America Community Coordinator, on the specific initiatives LEGO is using this year to support the adult fan community and he also gave those in the audience a real treat by revealing for the first time in the United States the next model in the modular building series, the Palace Cinema!
Nearly everyone from the club also participated in a competition or giveaway at some point and the club as a whole received an unbelievable amount of stuff. To top it all off, during closing ceremonies, Chris won the Palace Cinema model that Kevin had revealed just a few days earlier!
We also remembered to bring a town & train display. This year it spanned 22 tables covering an area 17.5' wide by 22.5' long with 275 square feet of LEGO surface area. Putting that in perspective, it takes nearly 400 standard LEGO baseplates to cover that much space and our main train loop was over 130 feet in length!
To manage the logistics of such a large display, Pete secured a 6'x12' trailer to transport tables and MOCs. Unfortunately, the Sunday before BrickFair, Pete fractured his right kneecap, knocking him out of the convention. After a brief period of uncertainty, the club rallied and made arrangements to get the trailer to and from Birmingham and also got Pete's display packed up.
Assisted by other club members who took breaks assembling their sections to help, Brian and Will spent the majority of Thursday on the tedious and time consuming task of setting up Pete's display... without Pete. Fortunately, it had been thoroughly labeled, documented and photographed the night prior to his accident. By late Friday night, the layout was complete and ready for the public to arrive at 11 on Saturday.
Will (L) and Brian (R) assembling Pete's section
For this show, we had 9 distinct modules provided by Jared, Charles, Caleb, Le, Jennifer, Chris, Pete & Brian, David & Tammy and Stefan from the Birmingham Club. Other members contributed trains and parts to support the layout. Scott made his controllers available and fashioned some extensions for the long main loop on short notice. Alex and Trey added some engines and cars. Alan Bernstein also displayed a couple of nice GP-40PH-2s on our layout, one of which sported New Jersey Transit Colors along with two passenger cars. Overall, it was really nice being able to collaborate with people outside of the club. Hopefully, in the future we'll be able to expand this aspect of the layout even further.
Jared presented a superb WW2 display adjacent to Charles's tribute to nostalgia, otherwise known as his monorail and 12V train display. Caleb then introduced the traditional town theme which persisted through the remainder of the layout. Caleb's module featured a brick built road and several extremely creative buildings featuring many unique and advanced building techniques.
Le and Jennifer brought their beach scene back from Southerland Station and Jennifer even won an award, or "Brickee", for having the "Most Tragically Overlooked MOC." This was a great honor as it showed her peers felt she deserved recognition for her efforts even though the subject she chose to model may not have been as flashy or popular as some of the crowd favorites.
Chris made significant upgrades to his module over Christmas break, including a fantastic Hess service station. Chris is now easily covering 2 tables and somehow finds ways to keep improving things despite a crazy home/work/school schedule. He even scored an interview on Beyond the Brick where he discuses his module and BrickFair.
Chris's section lead into Pete's most ambitious module to date. In an attempt to use all of his 9V track (and then some) Pete featured the club's largest and most complex rail yard to date which spanned over 6 tables and included Matt's engine shed. Not content to provide only track, Pete also included Huntsville's Regions Center, Municipal Building and Big Spring Park. One of our Nashville friends, Jenni Joy, also provided a beautiful custom library modeled to be compatible with LEGO's modular series of buildings.
Pete & Jenni's buildings foreground, Stefan's just behind including tall tan skyscraper
Stefan adding the final touches to his module
On the far side of Pete's module, Stefan presented his outstanding skyscraper module which really drew visitor's eyes in our direction as soon as they entered the convention center.
Our newest members, David & Tammy, continued to demonstrate their commitment to the club in addition to their skill and speed, by covering two tables with a highly detailed recreation of Huntsville's Davidson Center located on the grounds of the Space & Rocket Center.
In every respect, the club was well received. We enjoyed positive comments from the LEGO Group, BrickFair organizers, fellow exhibitors and the visiting public. We were able to support this fantastic event in our home state not only with our creations but with our service as well. The convention was noticeably improved compared to last year with more exhibitors, over twice as many registered MOCs and record attendance. Last year, some 6600 visitors attended. This year, the 8000 mark was exceeded and there was, at times, a 20 minute wait which stretched the line of visitors all the way outside the building! As a result, Todd has already committed to hosting BrickFair, AL 2014.
For more photos, visit Will's Flickr account: BrickFair 2013, Le's Google+ Gallery: BrickFair 2013 and Chris's Flickr account: BrickFair 2013
Photographs courtesy of Chris Bolton, Will Ellett, Jennifer Garlen & Le Pitts