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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014

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In Kids & Family

LEGO heaven: coming to Milwaukee this summer.

LEGO KidsFest to make Milwaukee debut




Photo Gallery Gallery: LEGO KidsFest - Frontier Airlines Center

LEGO KidsFest is a massive, traveling LEGO expo and it's coming to Milwaukee's Frontier Airlines Center, June 15-17. This is the fourth year of the tour, but the first year the show will stop in Milwaukee.

"Milwaukee was chosen primarily because we have a strong fan base. In a four hour drive from Milwaukee, there are roughly 50,000 LEGO Club Members," says Aaron Wartner, spokesperson for LEGO KidsFest.

Six stops in total have been scheduled for the 2012 tour. It started in Cincinnati and Denver, and will stop in Austin, Pittsburgh and Detroit later this year.

Tickets are $18 for kids and $20 for adults. The event is divided into sessions. On Friday, June 15 there is one session from 4 to 8:30 p.m. There are two sessions on Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and 3 to 7 p.m. Each session offers the same exhibits and activities.

LEGO KidsFest includes millions of LEGO bricks along with construction zones, dozens of life-sized LEGO models and displays, LEGO Ninjago and LEGO Games. The event covers about three acres of space.

The LEGO model gallery includes 40 life-sized models made entirely from LEGO. The LEGO Master Builders, the people who actually get paid to play, will perform live demonstrations, and the Creation Nation offers the chance to make a custom map of the United States.

At the event, kids can also play LEGO board games, build and race a custom car, build with DUPLO blocks (larger than LEGO) and of course construct from piles and piles of LEGO.

More than 400 billion LEGO – which is the contraction of the two Danish words "leg godt" which means "play well" – have been produced since 1949. Over 4 billion mini-figures have been produced in the last 30 years. This is almost 12 times the population of the United States.

With these impressive statistics, one might wonder what's the secret to the long-term success of LEGO in light of the popularity of video games? Wartner, who points out he is not a spokesperson for LEGO systems, says he has made some observations about this through seeing visitors at the events and believes the popularity of the product is multifaceted.

First off, LEGO are simple, hands-on and easily learned. Secondly, they are pure imagination and anything can be constructed with LEGO bricks. Third, it is a group or an individual game. And finally, it's a legacy toy, one that parents, even grandparents, played with and have fond memories of that they want to recreate for their kids.

"Basically, LEGO is a type of fun that is vastly different – and in my humble opinion as a fan much more enjoyable – from what video games are," he says.

In more recent years, LEGO has marketed, seemingly, to specific genders. There are "boy" LEGO that come in blue tubs and have more wheels and car-building options and "girl" LEGO sold in pink bins that focus more on house building. Wartner, who speaks on behalf of the event and not the LEGO sets, says this is true in part, but LEGO are intended for anyone.

"In regard to the event itself, we aim to reach families, and we see attendees that span all genders and ages. Everyone is a kid at our event, even grandma and dad are building. In terms of play, some research shows that boys prefer construction and girls prefer story development," he says.

So is it ever correct to say "LEGOS" as many of us do?

"Like others, as a LEGO fan myself I have said for decades 'let's play with LEGOs," rather than the correct term 'LEGO bricks,'" says Wartner. "I now know better. That said, it is a colloquial term I would guess, but more so it is done out of habit and ease. What's important is that folks really enjoy the product."


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