Tag Archives: convention

LEGO Fan Weekend 2014, Skærbæk Denmark

As I mentioned in my last post, I attended the 10th and final LEGO Fan Weekend in Skærbæk, Denmark, on September 26-28. I say “final” because it is the last time that it is being run by the LEGO company, but the local LEGO fans will be taking over running it as of next year, so the event will continue. However it was my first time there and I had a great time! Continue reading LEGO Fan Weekend 2014, Skærbæk Denmark

Bricks by the Bay 2014

Our annual LEGO convention here in the bay area, Bricks by the Bay, just happened! I was so busy organizing it that I’m afraid I never got around to posting a blurb on my blog about it – hope you heard about it through other means and were there! It was a huge event, expanding to add a second ballroom, and adding an extra day (Thursday) for a new workshop program. We almost doubled last year’s attendance on the public day (about 4500 vs 2500 last year) though our convention attendance was down.

I’d like to announce the dates for next year’s convention, but we don’t have a firm commitment on the dates yet. The most likely dates are July 16-19, but we can’t be sure until we have a contract from the hotel. The theme for next year will be “Monsters” and we will be also making a special effort to highlight models with lighting effects similar to what they do at Brickworld in Chicago and BrickFair back east, shutting off the convention center lights for a few hours in the evening to let people enjoy the lit-up MOCs (My Own Creations). So start planning your monsters, especially ones with light-up effects!

I didn’t take photos at the convention, but here are some links to galleries that others have posted:

If you have some to add, post a link in the comments.

Trip Report: Brickworld 2014

I went to Chicago a couple of weeks ago to attend the Brickworld LEGO convention, one of the largest such events in the world. As you probably know I am the president of Bricks by the Bay, our local convention here in the San Francisco bay area, and it’s good to get out and visit other conventions to network, pick up new ideas for our event, and just see what the rest of the AFOL (Adult Fan of LEGO) world is doing. This was my third Brickworld; I had gone in 2009 and 2011. Continue reading Trip Report: Brickworld 2014

Bricks by the Bay 2013

The 2013 edition of the Bricks by the Bay LEGO convention has come and gone. A fabulous time was had by all, as far as I can tell anyway. Here’s a report of my experiences both running and attending the convention…

This was our fourth year, and each time it gets a little easier to run the event, but we keep adding new things each time making things more complicated. This year the theme of the convention was “Brick Technologies” in honor of Silicon Valley where it is held, and we added a lot of technology around running the convention, especially on the website. For example, for the first time, instead of having attendees edit a wiki page, we had a database where people could list the MOCs (“My Own Creations,” our term for custom made models) they are bringing to display. As the only experienced Perl developer on the organizing team, it fell to me to make all these changes, and over the past few months I’d been spending all my spare time working on the registration system for people to sign up their badges, vendor spaces, MOCs, etc.

One piece of technology that never did get finished was a custom iPad app for judging. We had a volunteer, Julian Gomez of Polished Pixels, working hard on an app for us to use. The judges would use iPads to select the models they wanted to vote for and upload their votes and take pictures of the models using this custom app, and we also planned to use the app to scan people’s badges as they enter the evening ceremonies so we wouldn’t call any names of people who weren’t actually present. However, due to some technical issues that came up and issues with Apple’s developer license program (and through no fault of Julian’s), the app wasn’t available. Julian’s work is much appreciated however, and we look forward to having it available for next year.

I arrived at the hotel Thursday afternoon and checked in, and we were able to get in to the ballroom in the early afternoon to measure out the placement of all the tables for hotel staff to set up. I spent most of the afternoon writing code, personally, getting the MOC Card system ready to print out the cards. MOC Cards are the little signs that everyone places by their models to identify the name, description, and builder of each model. Each card has a QR code on it, which goes to a webpage describing the model (and which the iPad app was supposed to use to identify the MOC for voting). I wrote custom Perl code using the PDF::API2 library to generate the cards, and sent the results out to Kinko’s FedEx Office for overnight printing. (We also had a color printer and paper cutter onsite for printing additional cards after the initial batch.) I went to bed around midnight, having told FedEx to email me when it was ready. I had sent out a call for a volunteer to run over to pick up the printouts in the morning, but at 3am I got up to use the bathroom and checked my email, and they said that our job was done. I decided rather than have someone slog through rush hour traffic in the morning, I’d just go in the middle of the night. I drove off to Cupertino to pick it up, and had a hard time finding the place, but eventually I did and brought it back to the hotel, leaving it in our office for the other organizers to pick up in the morning. My plan was to sleep in, but I woke up early anyway so I went ahead and went downstairs having had about 3 hours total sleep.

Friday morning I was a bit of a zombie, but we got all the rest of the setup done and in the afternoon I was able to attend some of the sessions. I ran the 101 Bricks game, which is always a lot of fun. We had some very creative models built, with an eventual winner with the theme “RAINY” going to Donna’s “SNOT Cloud” model. After that, I went to Zonker Harris‘s talk on lighting LEGO models using EL Wire and LEDs. I really like what he’s done with those technologies for his movie theater (EL wire to simulate neon lights) and disco dance floor (flashing lights underneath a translucent LEGO floor). There were a few other light-up models at the convention, and hopefully that trend will continue. BrickCon in Seattle has a section called “The Darker Side” where models are displayed in a tented area so the room lights don’t overwhelm the models’ internal lighting, and BrickWorld goes a bit farther having an hour with the hall lights off so everyone can go around and see the light-up models in the semi-dark. Maybe if we get more light-up models we can do something along those lines at BBTB in the future? After Zonker’s talk I went back down to the ballroom, and spent the afternoon working on administrative stuff and more software for the event website. We had a few walk-ups, mostly people who had registered their child but not themselves or vice-versa. Our policy is to close registration a week before the event, but in the future we need to be better prepared for these situations, as they required a fair amount of manual work to process.

Friday night, we had an awesome keynote presentation by Paul Lee, LEGO artist. He does a lot of work for LEGO, drawing comic books and advertising art for them, and it turns out he’s also an excellent public speaker! In past years, we’ve always had someone from the LEGO Group give the keynote speech, but this year LEGO has been scaling back their support for conventions and weren’t able to send any VIP out to us. We took the lead from BrickCon and reached out to the LEGO fan community, and everyone was very happy with the result. Mariann Asanuma recommended Paul, and he got a standing ovation. There’s a video (hand held iPhone video) of the talk on youtube taken by his wife. Next year maybe we’ll get a professional video crew to document this sort of thing…

After the keynote, I handed out the Scrounge Build packets, then went out to the lobby to run the Wacky Racers and Catapult contests, which are always a lot of fun.

Saturday, I missed most of the activities as I ended up spending a lot of time finishing up some of the things we would need for the website to make the convention run as planned. For example I spent all Saturday afternoon hacking on the voting system so that the judges would be able to submit their votes and pictures of the winners, and generating the PDF for the award ceremony. I just barely got that code finished in time for the ceremony itself; in fact for the first 1/2 of the ceremony I was sitting off to one side in the theater frantically coding the software to generate the slides, while my faithful minions ran around the ballroom taking and uploading pictures of all the models that hadn’t been photographed yet. But eventually they got all the photos uploaded just as I finished work on the code to generate the slides. But then I ran into an unexpected snag: the PDF is 14 megabytes, and it took quite a long time (I didn’t time it, but I think it was about 20 minutes) to download on the slow wifi. So we had to stall a little bit while that downloaded, but eventually it was done and we managed to get it up on the screen to give out the awards. There were two minor issues – photos showing up rotated (my code was ignoring the EXIF Orientation flag, oops) and Overall trophies showing up in the theme trophy sections (it was showing the winners in the theme they were registered under instead of the theme of the trophies). It was funny watching hundreds of people tilt their heads sideways to look at the pictures! As for the trophies showing up at the wrong times, once I figured out what was happening I skipped over those and announced they would be given out Sunday night.

Saturday night we had something new at BBTB: a no-host bar, called “Brick Saloon.” This was an opportunity for the adult attendees to hang out, play some games (I brought Cards against Humanity, and someone brought some LEGO bricks to play a version of Zendo with instead of the more customary Icehouse pyramids). I don’t drink, so the bar wasn’t my cup of tea (DID YOU SEE WHAT I DID THERE?) but I hung out and played games a bit. I went downstairs to the ballroom after a while to take photos of MOCs until my camera battery died, and then went back up for more games until it was time to close at 2am.

Sunday is the big public show at Bricks by the Bay. Unlike most conventions we just have one public day. the vendors complain every year, but it’s a lot less stressful this way, and we always make enough money to make our budget (Bricks by the Bay is a non-profit) so it’s not necessary to have two days. I have delegated all the public day operations to other people, so I was able to sleep in and get there around 10am just as people were going in to the show. I hung out at the admin desk for a while, answering questions and such, and then in the afternoon went upstairs for the Large Set Parts Draft. Parts drafts are one of my favorite convention activities, and I had to miss the one on Saturday as I had too much work to do (I sent Bruce to draft in my place, and he got some great parts, but I really would rather have been there myself). Almost any LEGO part is useful if you have enough of them, and a parts draft lets you take all of the parts of a particular shape and color from as many as a couple of dozen copies of the same set. The trade-off is that everyone else participating gets to do this too, so you only end up with a few unique pieces, but many of them. We did some trading (e.g., “I’ll give you 8 of these for 4 of those”) after the parts draft for some parts that each of us wanted but other people got.

After the parts draft I went back down to the ballroom, and finally at 4pm we closed up and kicked all the public out. We had a brief closing ceremony where we announced the overall MOC winners and the results of the games that had happened after the Saturday ceremony, and I had a brief Q&A about the next year’s convention. Finally we tore down all the stuff and everyone went home.

I spent the night in the hotel again Sunday night, and Monday morning got together with Bruce and Loren, the other Directors, to tie up loose ends and take all the stuff back to the storage unit. We had lunch from a taqueria and got all the boxes stowed, the storage locked, and we each went home. I took the rest of the day off work, and went back to work Tuesday (working from home all week). It took a few days for me to catch up on my sleep, and I still had a little bit of coding to finish up, but it’s time to put things away for another year.

Come join us next year!! We’re adding 50% more ballroom space, and a full day of workshops on Thursday before the usual convention activities start.

August 7-10, 2014
Hyatt Regency Santa Clara & Santa Clara Convention Center
Thursday : Workshops & Opening Ceremonies
Friday – Saturday : Private Convention
Sunday : Public Exhibition
www.bricksbythebay.com

See all my pictures of MOCs from Bricks by the Bay 2013 by clicking the image above, or click here for a slideshow.

Last chance for Bricks by the Bay convention registration

I just posted this on the Bricks by the Bay site:

The Bricks by the Bay 2013 convention is almost here! I’m so excited – and busy!

If you haven’t registered for the convention yet, please note that we are in our final week of registration. The deadline is this coming Friday at midnight. After that, no badges will be sold! There is no walk-up registration. All our attendees will have custom printed badges made of LEGO bricks and we are doing the final preparations and packaging of the badges and attendee goodies this weekend (let me know if you want to come help out). Badges are currently selling for $70 each and there are 57 (out of 500) remaining as of this writing. Register today!

See the schedule of events for more information about what is going on at the convention.

If you’re not coming to the convention please come to our Public Exhibition, Sunday August 11. Tickets are on sale now for $8 per person (ages 2 and under free). Buy tickets today.

Thank you and hope to see you at the convention or exhibition!

William Ward
President
Bricks by the Bay, Inc.

Greetings from BrickCon 2012

I’m in Seattle for the BrickCon LEGO convention this weekend. It’s a really busy weekend for me, though, because I’m also here for my other hobby, dancing – I’m attending the Seattle Fusion Festival which is taking place at the same time. Luckily the dance classes are held right at Seattle Center, which is where BrickCon is, so I can bounce back and forth between the two events, as I have been doing all weekend. Actually it’s not just this weekend that was so busy – I’m at the tail end of a two-week road trip. Last weekend I was in Colorado at the Aspen Alt. Blues Recess, another dance event, and have been exploring the western US in my van in the week in between. After BrickCon I’m heading home by way of Portland; I should be home by Wednesday.

Due to the dancing I haven’t had much time to participate in BrickCon activities. I signed up for a couple of events but didn’t make the cut for most of them. I did get to participate in a relay speed build, where teams of four people took turns assembling steps in a model. Our team finished fourth I think, but there’s only a prize for the fastest team. We did get to keep the parts from the set we built, however. The set we built was Alien Conquest Tripod Invader (7051) and we divided the parts up four ways.

Saturday night we had the BrickCon awards ceremony, and I’m pleased to report that my Kermit sculpture won yet another trophy! This time it was the “Sublime Shape” trophy (best sculpture). Kermit has now won four trophies: two at Bricks by the Bay and one at BricksCascade in Portland, and now this one. Here’s Kermit with his trophy:
Kermit and Trophy
Tonight (Saturday night) before going out dancing, I walked around the exhibition hall and took pictures of all the MOCs, and uploaded them to Flickr. You can see all my photos from BrickCon on Flickr by clicking the image below or viewing them as a slideshow:
BrickCon 2012 Overview
If you’re in the Seattle area and read this in time, come on by Sunday October 7, from 9am-3pm we will be open to the public. If you missed it, it’s always the first weekend in October so add it to your calendar.

Bricks Cascade 2012

Last weekend, I went up to Portland, Oregon for the first-ever Bricks Cascade LEGO convention.

I had a real ordeal getting up there. I had standby tickets to fly up Thursday morning from San Francisco, but the flights were all full. I bought a one-way ticket using miles instead on another airline, and then realized that flight was out of San Jose! So I had to take two BART trains, a Caltrain, and a bus to change airports. I got to the airport in plenty of time, but the plane was late coming in… and after unloading the incoming passengers, they didn’t load us right away. After a while we finally heard the mechanic was looking into an oil pressure problem, and after an hour or two delay (during which another – full – flight to Portland took off without us), they canceled the flight. We had a choice to be put on a flight from Oakland – yet another airport – that evening, but I didn’t relish the idea of riding in a crowded shuttle bus in rush-hour traffic and told them to just cancel me and give my miles back. I decided to drive up instead… it’s about a 12 hour drive, and at that point (Thursday evening around 5) I thought I could make it up there by noon Friday and still enjoy the convention events.

However, I didn’t get a ton of sleep the night before, and spending the entire day trying to fly wasn’t exactly restful. I didn’t quite make it to Redding before I started getting drowsy, so I pulled off in a rest area to take a nap. It was too warm to really sleep and I didn’t get more than a catnap before pressing on. I spent the night at a truck stop in Weed. I also took some rest breaks the next morning, and between all the sleeping, and a few stops for gas and munchies and stuff – oh, and I had to stop at a tire shop and buy two new tires for my van – I didn’t get into Portland until 5pm. I missed all the Friday activities at the convention, but at least I made it. I went to the airport and got my luggage (which made it on the first flight I missed), and went to my friend’s house where I’d be staying for the weekend, and collapsed into bed.

My hay fever allergies had been acting up even before I left, but when I got up to Oregon, they really kicked into high gear. I was completely stuffed up, and had to take a Benadryl when I went to bed in order to sleep. I had to take plenty of allergy meds all weekend just to function, but I almost completely lost my voice anyway. As I write this Thursday evening, I still have a residual cough and my voice isn’t quite right.

Saturday morning I checked in at the convention and set up Kermit before the doors opened to the public. I took a few photos, then went out for lunch (vegan waffle with fried chicken from the Flavour Spot food cart) and did my shopping at the LEGO store, then went back to the convention center. I took part in the team speed build event, where we formed four teams of six to put together the LEGO Tower Bridge #10214 set. My team finished last, but at least we got to divvy up the set and each keep 1/6 of the parts. At the award ceremony Saturday evening, they gave me a special “Planes Trains & Automobiles” award in honor of my travel misadventures, and Kermit won “Most Iconic” in the Art theme. After the ceremony I went out for dinner and Voodoo Doughnut with a couple friends, and then went back to my host’s house and to bed.

Sunday, I spent the entire day onsite, except for a brief time away for lunch at Red Robin nearby. I took a lot of photos and spent time chatting with people. Overall, the attendance was fairly light for this event, but that is probably for the best their first year. I’m sure as the word gets out, they’ll have more crowds next time. I really enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere that a lighter density crowd brings. They closed the doors at 3, and had a brief closing ceremonies in which my name finally came up in the drawing and I got a Friends set. We packed up all our things and cleared out the hall. One unexpected surprise was another Toyota Sienna van with Oregon “I LEGO” license plates! Turns out, one of the local Play-Well people had a Toyota minivan with a license plate to match my California “I ♥ LEGO” plates.

I spent the evening hanging out with my hosts and headed out in the morning, but did some shopping on my way out of town and didn’t really get on the road until after noon. I got home around 5am, after a few nap breaks. It was quite an ordeal of driving, and I really should stop trying to drive all the way to/from Portland by myself in one step. Road trips are so much easier if you drive no more than 6-8 hours per day. They’re better still if not preceded by a day struggling to get on board an airplane, though.

Anyway, overall I had a great time and am looking forward to BrickCon in Seattle in October, and seeing what Bricks Cascade does for 2013! To see all my photos, click the image, or view a slideshow.

Bricks by the Bay 2012 Wrapup

Our third annual Bricks by the Bay LEGO fan convention was a huge success! It was held just over a week ago, March 16-18, in Santa Clara, CA. Months of hard work planning and preparing for the convention finally paid off as over 400 attendees came to the convention, and over 5300 members of the public came to see our stuff on Sunday.

Although I’m the President of Bricks by the Bay, I actually managed to enjoy and participate in the convention to a large degree. Here’s a brief overview of what it was like from my point of view each day…

Thursday

Suite
Suite

I arrived at the hotel around noon and checked into my room. I had a van full of both my stuff, and stuff for the convention (mainly prizes). I sorted all my stuff from the convention stuff and had the bellhops take my stuff up to my room, and had the housemen (Banquet department workers) carry the convention stuff up to the suite. I then spent most of the afternoon in the suite along with the other board members Bruce and Loren, and our prize goddess Jen, getting things sorted and ready for the convention. I spent most of the time getting my Scrounge Build envelopes ready.

When it came to be dinner time we went to the hotel restaurant and ate, then started setting up the Grand Ballroom. As the earlier event’s tables and chairs were being cleared away, we measured out on the floor all the locations where the vendor and exhibit tables would go and marked them with blue painter’s tape, and set up the pipe and drape in the vendor areas. In the meantime, the hotel staff brought in and set up all the tables in the spaces we had already marked. We stayed until about 1am working on this.

Friday

SNOT Panel
SNOT Panel

I had to get up at 7am Friday to help continue setup. We had thought we would have a lot more table setup to do in the vendor areas Friday morning, but it turned out that we were able to get more done Thursday night than planned, so that was a more relaxing time than expected. I helped get the check-in desk squared away, and turned to setting up my MOCs. Unlike the past two years things were going quite smoothly and I didn’t get called upon much during this time, so I was able to have a fairly relaxing day almost like a regular attendee.

At 1pm, I joined Mariann Asanuma to talk about SNOT (Studs Not On Top) building techniques, and used my camera connected to the projector to show close-ups of the things we were talking about. I brought my Kermit the Frog head to the panel, and showed the various ways that parts of his head were built at different angles.

Parts Draft
Parts Draft

After that I sat in on Erik Wilson’s Historical Models presentation then took some alone time, catching up on email and decompressing. Later that afternoon I participated in the Adult Dirty Brickster (I brought a 9V train motor, and came away with a couple small Star Wars sets) and Small Set Parts Draft (I got a bunch of cool parts from the Olivia’s Tree House set) activities, then went out to dinner with the other Directors and the LEGO delegation.

After dinner, we had the Opening Ceremony, where each of the LEGO representatives spoke for a while and then Kevin Hinkle from LEGO unveiled the new R2-D2 set. At the end of the Opening Ceremony I handed out envelopes for the Scrounge Build participants, consisting of a LEGO set instruction book and a form to fill out (but no parts – the point of the game is they have to find the parts, or suitable substitutes for a penalty, and build the set). A few minutes after that was done, a couple guys came up to me with a completed Scrounge Build model! It turned out that Angel Monje’s store had the model (a Star Wars ship) in stock, and they just bought it off him and brought it to me. But since they had to actually build the set to win, I told them to take it apart and rebuild it, and they still had to write out the story of how they got it, before they could turn it in.

Kevin Hinkle and R2-D2
Kevin Hinkle and R2-D2

While they were working on that, there was a fire alarm in the hotel. Although we were in the Convention Center, a separate building connected by a corridor, we still evacuated the Grand Ballroom and spent some time waiting in the Convention Center lobby. I later learned that my Scrounge Build winning team had gone outdoors instead, and were working on their model in the rain! After they finally gave us the all clear to go back in to the ballroom, the team found me again and turned in their model. It seems that what they had bought was not built 100% right – there were pieces missing and extra parts that shouldn’t be there, so they had to do a bit more scrounging but eventually they got it done. With the story about finding the set and the fire alarm, they easily qualified as having a great story as well as being the first ones done, but since nobody else turned theirs in, they won in both categories.

I took a lot of photos on Friday evening, but since some things didn’t arrive until Saturday that doesn’t cover everything.

Saturday

Zonker - EL Wires

I allowed myself the luxury of sleeping in a little Saturday morning, and went downstairs to the convention around 9:30. I sat in on Zonker Harris’s EL Wires presentation at 10, but got called away to meet a reporter who had arrived, Richard Hart, who was working on a piece for channel 7 ABC news, and had been the host of the Discovery Channel show The Next Step. It was great to meet him because I’d seen him on TV for decades dating back to my childhood when he was a host of the “Evening Magazine” show. He was very personable and easy to talk to, and I enjoyed telling him about the convention and the LEGO hobby. He did a short video interview, a clip of which made it as a sound bite in the eventual TV news segment, which aired Sunday night. The original intent was to show it Saturday night, so that it might help publicize our public day Sunday, but it didn’t make it into the broadcast. You can see the video and read a transcript of the segment online: “LEGOs go from toy to technology

Relay Team Speed Build

At 11, Jen Nogle and I ran the Relay Team Speed Build game, where 5 teams of 4 people raced to build a set that we provided. The parts from the set were distributed across three tables, where there was one station for each team, and the members of the team had to carry the build-in-progress from one table to the next, handing it off to the person who was waiting there, until a team finished the build.

After lunch I was a part of the “How to Design MOCs from Start to Finish” panel with Mariann Asanuma and Russell Clark. We talked about three different ways of building: Mariann uses “brick paper” to plan out sculptures, Russell uses LEGO Digital Designer, and I build using bricks by looking at pictures but not doing any formal planning. I had some technical difficulties getting my part ready as I hadn’t taken the time to do adequate preparation, but in the end it worked out fine.

Immediately following that was another game I was running: 101 Bricks. Players brought their own parts, 101 elements of any type, to engage in a series of challenges. My original idea, copied from the game I played at BrickCon last fall, was to go through 10 challenges, but because so many people were participating we only got through 5 of them. Still, it was a popular game and people had a lot of fun with it.

That game ended at 3, when my dance partner Valerie came by after her bellydance class, and I spent the next hour showing her around. At 4, I was in another panel, this time on LDraw, with Jordan Ladd of BrickBooks. We talked about the various tools that make up the LDraw system and how we use them to make instructions for models.

When that was over, it was time for the All Ages Dirty Brickster game. I brought in a box of LEGO 9V train track switch parts and came away with a Heroica game. What followed was the dinner break… and that’s where things finally came off the rails.

Late Friday night I had had the hotel print out ballot forms for the MOC (My Own Creation, the models people brought to display) award voting. We had 8 display themes, each with 5-7 awards to give out, plus 10 general awards, and we had five judges for each theme. So the ballots were pretty important… I had prepared envelopes for each of the theme coordinators with the ballots for their theme, and had them at the check-in desk for them. The judges did their work all afternoon and turned in their ballots as planned to Paul, who was to tabulate the results and prepare a slide show with a photograph and the name of each winner. But we had a couple of serious problems with this plan…

First, Paul’s computer was misbehaving. He had to install some updates to the software and wasn’t able to create the slide deck during dinner as planned, and by the time the computer was ready to do so, it was almost time to start the evening ceremonies and he was needed on stage, so I took over that job. Second, I had failed to include space on the form for the builder’s names. Thankfully a couple of the judges did write the names down, but most didn’t, and I couldn’t very well give out awards without knowing who built the winning models! So I holed up in one of the empty rooms and furiously tabulated the votes with Loren, while tireless volunteer Raj Singh ran around the ballroom finding the winners and identifying the builders, communicating with us by cell phone. I don’t know how long this all took but it was probably over an hour. We were going to put photos on each slide, but quickly discarded that idea as too time-consuming, since it often wasn’t clear which photo corresponded to which winner. Meanwhile, back in the Theater, they had given out door prizes and awarded the winners for all the games, and needed to stall for time while I worked on the MOC awards. Eventually I got them done and ran triumphantly down the stairs in the theater with laptop held high to thunderous applause, and set it up on the stage for Paul to read off the winners.

But as if that weren’t enough trouble for one night, I had been doing all of this with my laptop running on battery power, and the battery gave out just as we finished the awards. The computer put itself into emergency sleep mode and turned itself off moments after we were done with the slide show. But when I turned it back on the next day, I was horrified to learn that the file was corrupted and could not be restored, and I had never hit Save!!! So all the slides I had worked so hard on were lost, and I would have to reconstruct the winners yet again from the ballots. I did that on Monday at home after the convention, and think I got them all right except for a couple of unknowns….

My "City Park" diorama won an award
My "City Park" diorama won an award
My "Rainbow Connection" sculpture won two awards
My "Rainbow Connection" sculpture won two awards

The good news is I won some of the awards! My “Rainbow Connection” sculpture of Kermit the frog with banjo won Supreme Sculptor (Art) and my “City Park” won Best Minifig Scene (Town & Train). In the overall awards on Sunday, Kermit also won the “Greenest” trophy. I had brought the City Park to last year’s convention and it was barely noticed, but this year for some reason it attracted a lot of attention and I received a lot of comments about it. Kermit’s head appeared at the February BayLUG meeting (and won the “movies” themed contest there) but the rest of the body and banjo were built in the week before the convention.

Anyway, back to Saturday night. After the ceremony was over, I ran the Wacky Racers and Catapult events. Wacky Racers was a hoot! We had a lot of entries in all categories (kids, teens, and adults) and some spectacular crashes as well as some great long distance results. The Catapult only had a couple of entries, all adult, and only one purist entry. Still, it was fun flinging minifigs across the lobby of the Convention Center!

When that was all done, I stayed up late taking pictures of all the models until about 1am. We kicked everyone out of the ballroom at midnight, but I pulled rank to stay behind and take photos until the security guy needed to lock up.

Sunday

Best in Show & Public Choice Winner - Last March of the Ents by OneLUG
Best in Show & Public Choice Winner - Last March of the Ents by OneLUG

Sunday was our big day when the public would come through from 10am-4pm. Last year we hired a security firm, Praetorian Event & Protective Services, to monitor the doors and lines on public day, and this year we expanded that to include ticket sales as well. This saved us the hassle of having to provide volunteers for that work and just let the pros handle it. This proved to be a great decision and we will probably expand their presence again in the future. If you’re looking for a company to provide that kind of service I can’t recommend them highly enough.

We had a long line of pre-paid people again this year, like last year, and we let them in as fast as we could… there were not many complaints, though at times we had to pause the lines because the ballroom was too full. I put up some signs to help direct the flow of people correctly, which helped avoid event staff people having to answer questions repeatedly and people being in the wrong line (cash vs. pre-paid).

Like last year, the lines calmed down as the day wore on, since the majority of people came early. By the afternoon things were running smoothly without my help and I was able to go upstairs and participate in the Large Set Parts Draft where I got some great parts out of the Robber’s Hideout set. As that event wound down the convention center staff arrived to set up the chairs for the Closing Ceremony. We had the “chill space” bulk brick play area that was going on in room 203 moved out into the foyer, while we finished up the game in 204 and cleared out of there, and they took down the wall between the rooms and filled the space with chairs. Johannes set up the audio system and we were all set in time for the ceremonies at 4:30.

At the closing ceremony we gave out a few more awards – the Wacky Racers and Catapult winners, Individual Speed Build, and other things that took place after the Award Ceremony on Saturday, the overall MOC awards, and two theme MOC trophies whose winners had been absent the night before. I announced the dates for the next event – August 8-11, 2013 – and we all went downstairs to tear down.

Coda – IHOP Dinner

IHOP Dinner
IHOP Dinner

A week after the convention, on Saturday March 24th, about 35 of us met at the International House of Pancakes for a post-mortem party, where we talked about the convention and what we all got out of it, started talking about the 2013 event, and I think BayLUG did some recruiting.

It was fun to recapture some of the camaraderie from the convention if only for a few hours, but a challenging day for me as I came straight there from a tearful memorial service for a former housemate who had been a pillar of the social community I was a part of in college, who had died of cancer a week before the convention.

What’s Next?

We start the planning process for the 2013 convention, and we may have another smaller “minicon” this fall to tide us over since there’s such a long delay until the next event. We’re moving the convention to the summer because we weren’t able to find a date in the spring when the hotel could let us have the space. If you would like to join the effort, subscribe to our Planning Mailing List and you will be kept in the loop.

Photos

Here are all my photos from the convention. Some photos appear in more than one set, so there are several ways to slice it up: by day, by subject, or All.

By Day

BBTB 2012 Planning Meeting: Brian's old LEGO
Planning Meeting: Brian's old LEGO - 7 photos
BBTB 2012: Friday
Friday - 358 photos
BBTB 2012: Saturday
Saturday - 479 photos
BBTB Dinner at IHOP 2012-03-24
Dinner at IHOP - 3 photos

By Subject

BBTB 2012: People
People - 57 photos
BBTB 2012: MOCs
MOCs - 781 photos

All

BBTB 2012: All
All Photos - 847 photos