In Kids & Family

Who wouldn't want to scale a mountain of bricks?

LEGO KidsFest brings a mountain of bricks to Wisconsin Center

It's been four years since LEGO KidsFest has been to Milwaukee, and during that time, the LEGO craze has grown and grown.

Now, the event is back at the Wisconsin Center on Friday, Oct. 7-9, at the Wisconsin Center, allowing kids (and adults) to do hands-on building, view astonishing models, play interactive games and do some unique things, too – like climb a huge mountain of LEGO blocks.

Five identical four-and-a-half-hour sessions will be held Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are $19 for Friday and Sunday afternoon sessions, and $22 for both sessions on Saturday and Sunday. Complete details can be found at LEGOkidsfest.com.

A couple weeks ago, it was announced that LEGO KidsFest's 1,000,000th guest would attend the Milwaukee event.

"This visit to Milwaukee speaks to the success and popularity of our show," said event organizer Christopher White. "We're thrilled Wisconsin-area families will get to experience this once-in-a-lifetime event."

We caught up with master model builder Chris Steininger (pictured below with some fans), who will be on hand to teach some building classes, to find out how one builds a career out of little plastic bricks and what we can expect at LEGO KidsFest when it arrives in Milwaukee.

OnMilwaukee: How does one get to be a real LEGO master builder? I know of a few million kids who hope to have that job someday.

Chris Steininger: To get this job we look for people that have a creative background particularly in 3D art, as most of our models are designed virtually using a program called MAYA. The eight LEGO Master Builders in the world, based in Enfield, Conn., have diverse backgrounds, from myself with a woodworking background to others with a more traditional art background. When you first join the model shop, where we work, you start off as a model gluer trainee, then become a model gluer, then model builder, senior model builder, finally master model builder.

Is it safe to assume you were a LEGO maniac as a kid? Did you prefer sets or loose blocks to create your own designs?

Growing up I was a build-the-set-and-play type of kid. As I grew older, I more and more started to build my own creations.

Did you then and do you now have a favorite series: City, Ninjago, etc.?

I love LEGO Technic! When I'm building anything at home it's going to be Technic. It has always been my favorite.

Explain a bit about how kids can make that leap from the sets, which are great, to learning how to see things in terms of blocks and how to translate their own original ideas into completed LEGOs.

Kids are the ultimate creators. They have not been influenced by what others think creativity should be. In the end what they create truly represents the intent of the LEGO system of play, and that is to be an endlessly creative toy. Sometimes kids need a bit of a jump-start in the creativity department and that's where building from a LEGO set can help; maybe it's a LEGO Star Wars set that inspires a child to build their own even-better spaceship.

How do you get your ideas for designs? Do you have a specialty (castles, vehicles, etc.)?

The team of master builders is involved with the creation of large-scale models, everything from human sized figures up to a life-sized X-wing fighters. In general, the LEGO sets are designed in Denmark. I personally enjoy building vehicles.

Spending so much time around LEGOs, do you ever find it consuming you? Do you dream about LEGOs, for example, or find yourself staring at things in the world and pondering how you'd render a model of it out of plastic bricks?

Yes, I have had dreams about LEGO, mainly when there is a tight deadline that a model needs to be built for. I have absolutely seen things like city buildings or airplanes and thought, "wow that would make an awesome LEGO model."

Tell us a bit about the LEGO KidsFest and what they're like?

LEGO KidsFest is a massive LEGO experience that takes over the entire convention center. We bring in all sorts of awesome LEGO experiences that you can't just do at home, including the biggest pile of LEGO bricks you will ever see, and my favorite, the brick battle zone, where kids play games designed by the Master Builders, like the bridge-building competition where LEGO Mike the MC will have the kids build bridges out of DUPLO. Then he will test each bridge to destruction; the bridge that holds the most weight wins.

What do you do at the fests? Do you go to a lot of them?

I have been to most of the LEGO KidsFests, including the first ever back in 2009. I will be teaching the LEGO Master Builder Lab, where we talk a bit about the history of LEGO and teach the kids some new building skills in a fun and exciting way.

Besides play and enjoyment, what do you think kids (and I guess adults, too) learn from LEGOs?

I hope kids and adults realize that LEGO is not just a toy, it's a means for creative expression!


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