Love of Lego can last a lifetime

Bricks Cascade event lets lover of the little bricks show off, check out creations




• What: A convention and public show for LEGO enthusiasts.

• Where: Oregon Convention Center, 777 N.E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Portland.

• When:10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, March 8 and 9.

• Cost: $8 per person, $28 per family of four for the Public Expo.

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• What: A convention and public show for LEGO enthusiasts.

• Where: Oregon Convention Center, 777 N.E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Portland.

• When:10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, March 8 and 9.

• Cost: $8 per person, $28 per family of four for the Public Expo.

• Info:

Thomas Prill stifled a small, self-deprecating laugh when he admitted that as a 45-year-old, he’s still fascinated with Lego toys.

But the soft-spoken Vancouver engineer, president of the Portland-area adult Lego group PortLUG, is far from alone in his love for the interlocking plastic pieces.

“There are a lot of other Lego users groups all over the world, and people will travel all over for them,” Prill said. “When we all get together for conventions, they can be sort of like Comic Cons.”

Hundreds of Lego enthusiasts started descending on the Oregon Convention Center on Thursday to build, chat and show off their elaborate creations at Bricks Cascade, an annual showcase for PortLUG. And thousands of visitors will have a chance to go through and look at their designs, buy Lego and other assorted toys and talk shop on Saturday and Sunday at the Public Expo.

First though, Prill would like to clear the air about an important topic.

The correct expression is “Lego” or “Lego bricks,” not “Legos,” he said with a hint of amusement in his voice.

“Lego the company has made a stink about this in the past,” Prill said. “They’ve stopped barking about it some, but they get a little perturbed that people call the individual pieces Legos. To them, Lego is the company.”

Still, he realizes people probably won’t change their ways just because the company would like them to.

“The rest of the world — especially mothers — are always going to say ‘go to your room and play with your Legos,’ despite what the company wants,” Prill said. “But I’ve been taught by having my head hit at my Lego-related events that you don’t call them Legos, because it will upset people.”

Like most American kids, Prill grew up with Lego toys, building a variety of creations, knocking them down, building new ones, he said.

“I played with Lego as a kid, had a lot of fun with it,” Prill said. “It helped me explore my engineering career at a young age.”

But also like most American kids, he put the toys away when he grew up — at least he did until his son and daughter, who are now 7 and 8 respectively, were born.

“When I started having kids, having been away from it for a while, it brought all that stuff back,” Prill said. “That often happens in our group. An adult has fun with Lego with their kids and it grows. You start building things you never thought of before.”

Bob Day, another Vancouver member of the group, said he never lost his interest in Lego. The 54-year-old also has a fascination with model trains, and about 10 years ago he merged the two loves and remade his grandfather’s Empire Builder model passenger train entirely out of Lego.

It looks very realistic, too, he said eagerly.

“Ooooh yes, the cars are numbered just like they were in real life,” Day said. “And I have them numbered in the exact order that the train used when it came from Spokane to Portland.”

Day said he loves the three-year-old Bricks Cascade convention because he gets to show off his creations and check out those made by others.

“It’s really growing in popularity,” Day said. “The attendance from the public doubled from our first to our second year. We think we could get even more this year.”

Prill really loves to make old buildings, so he’s created models of Portland’s Union Station and U.S. Custom House. But like Day, he’s also a huge train enthusiast, he said.

“When I build something, I try to keep it for as long as I can, and sometimes I’ll go for another revision of it if new bricks come out with a better texture or color,” Prill said. “My wife has sort of a love-hate relationship with it. She likes what it does as far as playing with the kids. The messy side, though, it’s sometimes hard to walk on the floor in the Lego room.”

At the convention, he loves checking out the elaborate creations that some of the members make.

“One of my favorites is Hogwarts Castle — it’s got everything,” Prill said of one member’s project. “There are also some very large capitol spaceships, things like star destroyers, that are just huge. There are 10-foot-long aircraft carriers and battleships. Last year, one guy made a Lady Gaga concert with Lego and mini figures.”

Other popular projects are city scenes, landmarks and such settings as a dinosaur invasion or zombie apocalypse, he said.

“Some people bring back favorites every year, but we’re also always adding stuff,” Prill said.

Prill hasn’t seen any Vancouver landmarks at the convention yet, but he is considering making one for the 2015 event, he said.

“Hmm, Fort Vancouver could be interesting, or the Smith Tower,” Prill said, contemplating. “The Smith Tower, because it’s round, would be an interesting challenge. It can be hard to make round things with straight bricks.”

The PortLUG group meets once a month at various spots in greater Portland, including Vancouver. Those older than 18 are welcome to join and can get more information at Kids younger than 18 can join with a parent, but the group is more geared toward adults, Prill said.

Kids that want to check out the creations at the convention are welcome. There will be a play area with Lego Duplo (larger, kid-sized) bricks for them to play with, Day said.

“The kids love that,” Day said. “The convention is really to show off what we build and get new people into the hobby.”