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Lego KidsFest hits Raleigh this week; here's what it is

The major Lego festival hits Raleigh this Friday through Sunday. Find out what it's all about.

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LEGO KidsFest
Sarah Lindenfeld Hall

The Triangle has long been a hotbed of Lego activity, with popular events such as Legopalooza at Morehead Planetarium drawing hundreds each year, an active base of adult Lego fans and a Lego store at Crabtree Valley Mall.

In fact, within a three hour drive of Raleigh, there are more than 40,000 members of the Lego Club, which offers building tips, events, a newsletter and more to Lego fans, Aaron Wartner of Lego KidsFest tells me.

That's one reason why Raleigh is a stop on the 2011 Lego KidsFest tour. The event will be at the Raleigh Convention Center this Friday through Sunday. Tickets are $18 for kids ages 3 to 17 and $20 for adults. Click here for information about a $2 ticket discount, which puts the price in line with most family shows at the RBC Center and the Durham Performing Arts Center.

The response to the event here has been close to record breaking, Wartner said. In the three years of the traveling show, Raleigh has had the second highest demand for tickets, drawing people from as far away as Atlanta, Kentucky, Washington, D.C., and South Carolina.

"We go to places where there are a lot of Lego fans and North Carolina, specifically Raleigh, happens to be one of those," he said.

Next week, eight semis full of Lego bricks and games will roll into Raleigh for the show, which will include group builds; visits and tips with Lego master builders; and a huge, three-foot deep pile of bricks that stretches about 20 feet by 20 feet for building.

"To boil it down, we have 150,000 square feet of interactive, hands-on, all ages Lego fun, featuring tons of different activities that kids otherwise wouldn’t be able to do at home," Wartner tells me. "And the learning that happens that goes along with it is just so very magical. We’re all about inspiring the next generation of thinkers and builders at Lego."

This is not a drop-in anytime kind of event. There will be five, 4.5 hour sessions starting at 4 p.m. Friday. The other sessions start at 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday. Visitors can purchase tickets for one of those sessions, which each are limited to 6,000 people, Wartner said. In between the sessions, Lego staff and volunteers from the Boy Scouts and YMCA's Y-Guides program will clean it all up, making it new for the next group of people to come through.

The first thing visitors will see is the Lego Model Museum with two dozen life size Lego models of popular characters from cartoons, movies and popular culture. They include a 15-foot Batman made completely out of Lego bricks and a Lightning McQueen car that's so big it comes on its own trailer.

Other highlights include two group build activities. In Creation Nation, each visitor gets a base plate to build their own Lego creation, which they can contribute to a basketball court-sized outline of the United States. The Mystery Mural is kind of like a giant paint by numbers picture, except with Lego bricks. The picture will appear over the weekend as more and more bricks are added.

Lego master builders, who are paid to play with Legos, will be there helping in a special activity area where kids team up with others to build towers or bridges and find out, for instance, which structures are the strongest. Several hundred people typically watch as the teams compete.

"We really do stress the science, technology, mathematical components along with the team work component," Wartner said. "Kids love it and it’s very much a crowd pleaser."

And then there is the big brick pile. Wartner said they've never really counted how many Lego bricks are at the event and usually just say somewhere around a "gazillion." The big brick pile will be home to many of them. It sits about three feet deep and stretches 20 feet by 20 feet. Entire families will sit down to build their own creations.

"Kids swim in it," Wartner said. "They're building together They’re working with each other. That’s one of the great things about this event. It’s so great for any age. It’s a great opportunities for families to spend fun, quality time together."

You'll also find a Lego Duplo area for younger Lego fans along with displays and activity areas featuring the latest from Lego, including Lego Universe and Lego Games. And there will be stores. The Lego retail store will be similar to the one at Crabtree Valley Mall, except it's three times the size and features products you won't be able to find elsewhere. The Lego marketplace store features other Lego-branded items.

And for the kids who are tagging along because their brother or sister is into Lego, there will be options for them including inflatables and activities from Marbles Kids Museum.

The event is recommended for kids ages 2 and up. Wartner said kids ages 6 to 12, especially, really seem to respond to all the activities. Advance tickets are recommended as some sessions can sell out.

"There’s more bricks than any kid will ever see in their lifetime," Wartner said.

For more information and tickets, click here.

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