The Journal Gazette
Tuesday, March 15, 2016 5:37 pm

Creating fun memories brick by brick

Jamie Duffy | The Journal Gazette

It took Brayden Stark no time at all to build a propeller-driven skateboard from little bits of Lego.

The 5-year-old boy from Edgerton, Ohio, was happily playing with his recent purchase at Brickworld, an expo held at the Grand Wayne Center Saturday and Sunday.

The project kept Brayden busy while he and his sister Holly, 11, and father, Brian, waited for mother, Kim, and brother Evan, 9.

Brickworld, founded by Fort Wayne native Bryan Bonahoom, an expo built brick by Lego brick, the miniature plastic pieces synonymous with engineering and imaginative play, welcomed about 8,000 visitors over the weekend, Bonahoom said.

It was the fifth annual event that also takes place in Chicago, Lafayette, Indianapolis and Tampa, Florida. The center of the expo floor was filled with displays that included one by a Fort Wayne Lego club, FortLUG. LUG stands for Lego User Group. ChiLUG, for Chicago, and IndyLUG also had displays there.

Many had powered trains that ran on tracks around the displays. Others, such as one by solo display artist Rocco Buttliere, featured Chicago skyscrapers and signature buildings like the Tribune Building and the Willis Tower, formerly Sears Tower.

The little bricks created first by a Danish toymaker in the late 1940s have been used in art and engineering projects and even featured in movies. For Sam Mitrevski and Alex Sibley, both freshmen at Homestead High School, Legos are a consuming pastime.

The two of them are next-door neighbors who store their sprawling Lego village in plastic see-through bins when it’s not on display. The 14-year-olds "just ask for money," when Christmas rolls around, Sibley said.

Perhaps their most memorable creation for Fort Wayne fans is a replica of the Panera Bread store at Jefferson Pointe, an homage to their favorite restaurant, according to Sibley.

Brian Stark, 41, a software engineer, remembers growing up with Legos, but there wasn’t nearly the variety.

He recalls the astronauts and the city Legos, the police and fire, but there were no movie-related Legos.

His parents were savvy enough to keep his old Legos that Stark’s three children still play with when they go to grandma and grandpa’s house.

It was the Starks’ first visit to Brickworld, Brian Stark said. "We’ve been to like, downtown Disneyland, but nothing quite like this."

That experience is what Bonahoom is after.

The 50-year-old Homestead High School graduate was the director of engineering for a robotics company and living in Fishers when, last year, he was able to quit the full-time job to concentrate on Brickworld.

He and a friend founded the company in 2007 primarily because the only other expos they were aware of were in Seattle and the District of Columbia.

"We needed more in the Midwest," Bonahoom said at the expo Sunday.

The Chicago event works as a convention and expo where there are competitions and awards besides displays, said Bonahoom who now is the sole owner of Brickworld.

He said he pays his displayers and offers them a cut of the entrance fees. "I’m the only one in the world who pays the adult fans to display," he said.

Around the room, there are also vendors where young Brayden was able to purchase two small bags of bricks and accessories for $4 to put together his flying skateboard.

FortLug, founded by Ed DeWitt, Geoff Ross and Jordan Stair, meets monthly at a library, DeWitt said. For the last nine months, the group met to discuss the display that was seen this past weekend.

"I’ve used Lego since I was five or six," said DeWitt, who is a test engineer at Franklin Electric and teaches engineering at IPFW and Indiana Tech.


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