Wednesday, February 13, 2008

LEGOPalooza - Saturday

I was a bit slow getting out of the house on Saturday - I didn't actually get to the Planetarium until nearly noon, even though I had been trying to get there for 10. Fortunately, everything worked well with the Aquazone layout, the history layout, and the plates for the town engine shed. There were also a few more people who pitched in to get the town/city set up. Even though the road layout was just about done and most of the houses and such had been set up, the train layout still needed to be worked out.

At this point, the train was starting to look a bit scary. There were a ton of loose cars and loose parts on the floor, and it wasn't really clear who brought what or what went with what anymore. With only 45 minutes until we opened to the public, we still had to figure out how many trains we could put on the layout and finalize where the track would be going. I wound up setting up trains until about a half hour after we opened to the public. Having extra parts out with little kids around, though, meant that we kept getting asked to get different trains running. Matthew wound up taking requests to get one train at a time going on the outer track while I tried to finalize the inner tracks and figure out which trains to put out. Matthew wound up swapping trains throughout the day, and it went pretty well overall.

I spent a good deal of time manning the Aquazone and history displays. At some point on Friday, a large mosaic of Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble went in between the two, so I wound up explaining the PicToBrick software to a few people too. The kids responded pretty well to both displays, but I had to explain what Aquazone was to most people. I guess "failed LEGO themes of the 1990s" isn't taught in schools these days. I did have one kid who had obviously read up on the topic come up to me and ask me where my bad guys were. That was embarrassing - I had been hoping that the little kids didn't know my sets well enough to spot the missing parts (although I had wound up not putting out the Crystal Scavenger set for similar reasons, which are a bit embarrassing to put in writing). Even though most people didn't "get" the theme (quite a few people didn't even get the "Finding Nemo" bit or the "Octopus' Garden" either), everybody seemed to like the light up cave, lit-up base, and lit up ships. There was even one kid taking video of my motorized sub.

The strangest part of manning Aquazone and history came when some kids got out of one the Planetarium's paid courses and saw Aquazone first. I explained that the Aquazone sets were from the 90's, and since these kids didn't realize yet that my other display was mostly based on stuff from the 60's, the kids were saying "so that's OLD!". Their parents found this as funny as I did.

Quite a few people were surprised by my lamp in the history display. Apparently most of them hadn't seen the Sopwith Camel set before, either (to be fair though, it is a rather-impressive looking set). I wasn't sure how many people would really stick around to read the poster, but quite a few actually did - maybe a third of the people who came by. I had to take a few parts out of my LEGO logo mosaic at one point to convince people that it was really built and not printed on. Several parents recognized some of the older sets and parts on display, and quite a few kids seemed really interested in it. The people who stuck around the longest were people who didn't really have any clue about this stuff though - we had quite a few people come in who were obviously just curious UNC students. I got the impression that they didn't realize that it had been 50 years since the LEGO brick had been patented. Now that i think about it, though, I'm not sure that anybody commented on my "50" sign or the slice of birthday cake.

I was surprised by how excited the kids got about some of the newer sets. Once I realized how much attention the three Bionicle sets I brought were getting, I decided to grab some more for Sunday (naturally, I have two or three whole collections of Bionicle that I've bought at yard sales, so grabbing an impressive-looking pile of sets is pretty trivial).

A few people complained about the lack of non-Star Wars space sets this year (I get the impression that people thought I'd be a safe guy to complain to since the sign and poster looked a bit "official" - and besides, what fan of LEGO history doesn't love Classic Space?). I decided to bring in a small spaceship for Sunday too. I did have a few people who were wondering about whether or not their kid could join NCLUG too (I tried to dodge the question, mostly - I didn't really know what the rules were on kids joining NCLUG until we sorted it out online the week after Palooza). The coach of the Apex FIRST LEGO League team gave me his business card too - apparently they're interested in doing a display too (I need to get back to him and let him know what he needs to about joining the group, though).

I was going back-and-forth between town and history/Aquazone for most of the day. I did get some pictures in, but Joe insisted I use his camera instead once he saw me having a hard time getting good shots. I only got in a few dozen shots, though, before I was needed to keep an eye on some displays again. We were pretty busy for most of the day, and every time paid courses got out, we had another wave of people come in (I probably noticed this more than most because I had the wall directly outside the part of the ballroom where the "challenge courses" were going on).

After closing on Saturday, most of us went to a pub in Durham. I didn't particularly care for the place, to be honest. It was a bit hard to follow the conversation, too, and we had a large enough group that it made sense to switch ends of the table a few times to try to catch everything that was going on. After dinner, everybody raced to Target and Toys'R'Us to browse the LEGO selection. I didn't buy anything (and I even got lost on the way to TRU!), but that was fun.

That was a bit of a long night though, and I was planning on being there as early as I could on Sunday to set up a Bionicle display (and believe it or not, we still had a few town things we wanted to fix).

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