If you can imagine it, the folks at the Tennessee Valley LEGO Club can build it.
Members of the club will be bringing elaborate "mocks"—real-world scenes made of LEGOs—to Normal-Palooza on Nov. 9 with additional loose play bricks for the kids. The display will be set up throughout the event, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The club’s display is one of the more popular attractions at the festival, according to organizers.
So what is it about LEGO that makes it so appealing to both children and adults? For club President Jennifer Garlen, it’s about making a world.
"For me, there is this creative aspect where you can recreate a world," she said. "I like to build towns and sets. It’s about the storytelling, for me."
Garlen is currently working on a scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s "The Birds," when Tippy Hedren is attacked by a flock of angry crows.
The TNVLC is considered a LEGO fan club, and membership is primarily located in the Huntsville and Madison areas of Alabama. Garlen said Tennessee has no official club but that members extend into the Knoxville area and a future branch is a possibility.
Though "mock-building" is a solitary effort, events like Normal-Palooza in Chattanooga allow AFOLs—adult fans of LEGO—to show off the scenes they’ve been working on.
For Normal-Palooza, the club will bring examples of their LEGO specialties: collaborative towns and train layouts, shopping malls, etc. These displays can span the length of four or five tables.
Packing can be an ordeal, according to Garlen. Many of the displays require specific boxes, peanuts and the right amount of packing tape. Other members of the club use discarded Amazon.com boxes to transport their scenes without breaking them in the process.
At home, Garlen said her room is filled with "highly OCD organized" play bricks and various LEGO parts.
"We’re kind of like the opposite of Alcoholics Anonymous," she said. "AA is there to help you kick your habit, but LEGO just feeds it."
And the Internet makes it easier than ever. Fan sites like Brothers Brick and the AFOL subreddit on Reddit.com are outlets for creative expression and locations to swap ideas. Garlen keeps track of her creations by using a public Flickr photo stream.
But the best way to get started in LEGO is to visit a (play) brick-and-mortar location. For Chattanoogans, that means a drive to either Nashville or Atlanta.
The drive is worth it, according to Garlen.
"There’s a lot of stuff online for people in remote locations," she said. "But the stores have Pick a Brick walls. I’ll go to the LEGO store and get cups and cups of loose bricks."
These Pick a Brick walls are where the magic can start happening in terms of realistic world building and replicas.
And it’s also where it can hit you in the pocketbook.
"LEGO is not super-cheap," Garlen said. "LEGO hobbyists are good at spotting deals, though. We’re always watching for things on clearance. You just have to be smart."
Interested in getting involved? Click here for more information on the TNVLC.
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