If you build it -- brick by shiny plastic brick -- they will come.
Such was the case when Lego's North American headquarters organized its first children's event in Hartford, Conn., in 2009 expecting only a few thousand fans of the Danish-born toy bricks. About 20,000 showed up.
That event has since grown to the Lego KidsFest, a traveling tour for Lego maniacs that snaps into place at the Austin Convention Center Aug. 31-Sept. 2. It is the only stop in Texas and is expected to draw Lego builders not just from Austin but from San Antonio, Houston, Dallas and even Oklahoma for three days of Lego fun spread over more than three acres of convention space.
With Texas home to 80,000 Lego Club Members, the state was a prime choice for Lego's party, where attendees will be met with more bricks than they've ever seen in their lives. The KidsFest proves to Lego that its bricks are on rock-star-tour level; previous tour stops in Denver, Raleigh and Chicago have drawn about 25,000 each in attendance.
The KidsFest promises interactive fun for all age and skill levels with Lego construction zones, 40 life-size models made entirely of Lego bricks, Lego games and race ramps, Lego and Duplo brickscapes, and a marketplace for retail purchase of Lego merchandise.
"Everyone should expect the best Lego experience ever," said Chris Steininger, a Lego Master Builder. "It's a Lego overload for four hours. People will be amazed at the number of Lego bricks. Kids don't know where to start. You walk in there, and it's like a dream, a 'Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory' moment."
The event may be called KidsFest, but it's not limited to the young.
"Adults are having fun because they are building with their kids," said Aaron Wartner, vice president for sales and marketing for Lego Systems Inc. in Enfield, Conn. "Kids are collaborative by nature, and so we encourage them to work together. It's all dependent on how much fun you're willing to have. It's also a way for them to engage in activities that they wouldn't be able to do anywhere else."
Creation Nation, which is an outline of the United States laid out, gives attendees the chance to fill in the map with their own unique creations. Builders also can create their own car, which they can race down a ramp. Single color bricks are available as part of the Monochromatic Builds activity. Not to be left out of the fun, preschoolers can build using the Lego DUPLO products, which are designed for their small hands. The life-size models in the Lego Model Gallery include figures such as Batman and Buzz Lightyear.
Two Master Builders will be present throughout each day to encourage visitors and to help those who may be struggling with building.
"For us, it's icing on the cake being there," Steininger said. "Every kid wants to be a Master Builder, and we teach them to become better builders."
For Lego, it's not just about brand building.
"Lego as a brand delivers a unique experience," Wartner said. "The product and brand is about inspiring the next generation to be creative thinkers and builders."
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