Tuesday, February 12, 2008

LEGOPalooza - Setup on Friday

When Friday, February 1st rolled around, I still wasn't entirely ready for LEGOPalooza. Most of the poster still had to be done. Carin stepped in to build the NCLUG sign (I know I should have made a little sign to credit her as the builder for that - sorry. That's her sign in all of the photos of my display), which freed me up from a rather large project that I wouldn't have been able to have ready in time. I had been hoping to start heading out towards Chapel Hill fairly early in the day, but that wound up not happening because of how long the poster took to finish. I wound up eating lunch before I left in the afternoon.

Oh, and did I mention that I had to get gas on the way out? Mom's car had been in the shop (so I had to pick that up on Thursday) and because mum had been out-of-commission since falling in the garage the previous weekend, I had to pick the car up and get fresh gas in it to take it to Palooza. Of course, we had drizzle outside on Friday too, so suddenly I had to find coverings for all of the open-top containers that I had packed.

Things got better once I finally got on the road. I was able to get to the Planetarium without any problems thanks to some new directions from Google Maps (last time I went up to the Planetarium parking lot at UNC was for a Nickel Creek concert in 2006, and I got lost on the way there).

Unloading went pretty well. I had a really light load compared to some of the more seasoned NCLUG members, so I was able to get to setting up fairly quickly. There's a bit of a twisty route between the parking lot and the ballroom where LEGOPalooza is held, but everything got in just fine. Joe Meno (editor of BrickJournal magazine, who we're lucky enough to have as an NCLUG member right now) was there setting up the tables and he helped me bring stuff in.

Joe Meno had brought a few things for the history display too - and they were all great additions that caught a lot of attention. He had a large wooden box with a variety of vintage pieces from the early 60s. I didn't really have a chance to look through it until Saturday, but there were a ton of easy-to-spot signs in there, as well as parts from the first Esso Station set and the very first lighting elements (which were missing the battery box, so we have no idea if they still work or not). Joe also had an awesome Formula 1 set from 1975 and a helicopter from the early 70s that was apparently very popular back in the day (quite a few parents told me that they had that one when they were little). Joe also had some official history of LEGO literature that he picked up last time he was in Billund, and he brought some print versions of earlier issues of BrickJournal too (BrickJournal was an online-only publication when it was first launched and is only now going into print).

There was plenty of other exciting stuff getting set up around the room, too. Joe Meno had gotten us the new Green Grocer set (which comes out in March and is a must-have kit with a ton of great details - I could probably write a small book just about all the neat ideas and parts in that set). The Green Grocer was a mere rumour at the beginning of that week - the first photo of it was leaked on Tuesday, and apparently NCLUG and another group doing a show that weekend in Belgium were the first to display it publicly. I'm a bit behind on the impressive newer town sets (they're great sets but they are a bit expensive, even if they are actually cheaper-per-part than the smaller sets are), so I also had my first chance to get a good look at the Cafe Corner set on Friday too.

Set-up at my display was fairly uneventful. It took a while to get the electricity hooked up (I had brought my lamp, and I also needed enough cable set up behind my display to reach the various electric things in the Aquazone layout). Once the electricity stuff was done, I set up my history table. I used one of my Coke trays as a riser, but besides that I was able to squeeze everything onto just one table (Of course, I had moved on to one-and-a-half tables by the time we opened on Saturday, and I took up two full tables by the time we opened on Sunday...) Somewhere along the way, Joe Cool lent me a build-in-a-bag for the history display too.

Setting up the Aquazone stuff proved a little bit more complicated. Joe Cool and Joe Meno were both bringing Aquazone stuff too, and everyone built more than they had originally expected too. At one point, I had dry-ran all of my pre-built sets and original models as a separate layout, but shortly after that we settled on putting the Neptune Discovery Lab set on one side of Team Joe's layout and setting up the rest of my sets and models on the other side. This looked great, but it did present a new electrical challenge that wasn't resolved until the next morning - I had added lights to both the Neptune Discovery Lab and the Shark's Crystal Cave (the latter required hollowing out most of the original set so that the lights would show through windows in what were originally separate chambers). I had brought one train speed regulator for all of my electrical needs in the Aquazone layout (which included those two sets and an original Aquashark sub that I rigged with motorized propellers and a fiber optic unit), so I had to bring in some extra cables on Saturday to get the whole thing going. I'll post more later about the lighting process, the motorized sub, and the other original sub I came up with (it could take months for me to get around to writing all that, though, and I doubt that as many people will find it interesting).

With the Aquazone stuff ready, I moved on to Harry Potter. Even though I'm not a Harry Potter fan, I actually have a decent-sized collection of it by now because of two HP collections that I bought at yard sales this past summer (which had about 8 sets total in them (including the castle), 5 of which were complete (the rest I'll use for parts)). I had modified a pair of Hogwarts Express cars to look "runnable", and those went towards Jen's displays (Jen builds dioramas of scenes from the books and movies). She only wound up using one, but it still came out pretty well. I put four other sets over in the display that Sabrina's mom (sorry, I didn't catch her name!) was doing, too, but it turned out that we both had brought those sets (so next year I should probably leave mine at home).

You'd think things would slow down once I had prepared all the displays that I was "really" contributing to, but things actually got busier for the rest of the night. It took me a few minutes to get my Carribean Clipper ready for the Pirates display (I know that I have a ton of other (and later) Pirates sets too, but that was the only one I had ready). After that, I went to put some of my road plates in the town/city, which was already starting to shape up (the Cafe Corner-Market Street-Green Grocer trifecta had already been snapped in and a few other sets and original models were out too). Sabrina's mom had built an awesome fire station from scratch - I'll have to find some more photos of it somewhere, though, because I don't have any good pictures of the interiors (which were extremely detailed). I was just about done putting roads in front of houses and such when Matthew came in with a few city blocks pre-built. The city blocks looked good and worked into the layout easily enough.

The next big change was that Matthew had brought in a spectacular train station of his own design. On the Yahoo! group, nobody had expressed interest in doing a train, so I had assumed that all of the train stuff that I was bringing "just in case" wouldn't be used - but once you have a great train station, you kind of have to set up some train track. Once I started taking track out, train sets, buildings, etc. just started coming out of the woodwork. Matthew (who doesn't even own any 9V trains of his own) somehow wound up in charge of setting up several trains in a much larger layout than anyone was expecting. I wound up being a sort of "train guru", and I was over there helping out quite a bit on all three days. By the end of the night, we had two rounds of track set up, completely encompassing the town layout, the Spongebob Squarepants layout, and Sandy's Eastern architecture-themed models (which, by the way, are also really good, but required a hefty amount of special-parts-ordering). I wound up setting up my Train Engine Shed, but we ran into some trouble because I hadn't brought the baseplates for that set (I brought them in on Saturday, though). We actually didn't finish setting up the town layout on Friday - but a big part of that was because we were waiting for Carin to show up (and somehow, none of us knew quite what she was bringing).

Carin showed up with a few pre-assembled models for the town and a large pile of unopened sets that needed to be built. She had the new 50th Anniversary Town Plan set assembled too, which was exciting to see (that's also on my list of current-sets-I-have-to-get). We wound up using the table that was set aside for Mindstorms displays to do a group build - I think most of us got to build at least one set there. I got to build one of the newer train stations (which was nice enough, but I still prefer my Metro Station set that's still packed away somewhere) and I also built two of the new fire/rescue sets. The group build lasted well into the night. I didn't actually have a chance to stop and eat - I just started building with one hand and eating pizza with the other. I was surprised at how good I got at opening the boxes and bags with just my left hand.

By the time that the end of the night rolled around, I had a small list of little things that needed to be brought in for Saturday. I still had to make the smaller signs for my history display, and there were a few little things (like the wires and baseplates I mentioned earlier) that I needed to add for town and Aquazone. A few people were worried about the way that my history poster was hanging off of the table a bit, so we decided that I'd have to reorganize my table on Saturday morning too.

The Planetarium more-or-less kicked us out on Friday night, leaving plenty of work left to do for Saturday morning before the crowds showed up. That's another post, though.

No comments: