Brickfair just keeps getting better and better. In fact, I’ve already registered for Brickfair 2012! And I’ve got some ideas about what to do for the theme: fire.

Brickfair 2011’s theme was NASA. I’ll admit I didn’t have any ideas about what to do with the theme, but I did throw a star chart and telescope into one of my MOCs in honor of the theme.

I ended up bringing 3 MOCS (1 large and 2 small but fun) to the convention. It proved a little challenging because there’s never enough room on the tables and because half of my MOC was on display for the entire month of July at the Potomac Mills store (an honor) as part of the WAMALUG display case project. But I’m proud of my efforts and had a great time at Brickfair.

Day 1 (Thursday):

I usually just take the Friday off of work, but setup was a nightmare last year, so I decided to go as early as I could. I was still half an hour late getting there because I’d been up until well past 4am building & then packing up everything. Apparently, I did not pack well because halfway down the road I stopped at a traffic light and four of my buildings slid off the seats and into pieces on the floor of my car. I threw everything into a box and was amused to look into the box later and see that part of a house had fallen on top of a witch. I spent a long time searching for pieces and trying to rebuild and then another half an hour crawling around on the black floor of my car looking for a single black roof piece (I eventually found it at the bottom of the bag of nametags for the Writers’ Roundtable group I lead).

I stood in line and got my registration stuff then sped over to the TV/Movie/Book area where there was only one spot remotely big enough for my MOC. I squeezed in. I had to shuffle some buildings around to fit, but all the bricks made it in AND it wasn’t too far from an outlet to run my Hogwarts Express. I was THRILLED to find that the Sci-Fi Movie category this year was now a more open and inclusive TV/Movie/Book. So I got to be surrounded by all my favorites–Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Star Wars, Star Trek, Doctor Who, and even Jurassic Park. But the area seriously needs to be bigger. We filled it up in mere minutes (though I found out later people had started setting up before waiting in like to get to get their registration packets *sigh* Wish I’d thought of that).

After setting up, I tracked down a Wachovia Bank and got some money out to last me the weekend. Then I picked up some Burger King (mmmm veggie burger) and headed back to the convention center.

I went around taking plenty of photos and taking a first look at the vendors. Apparently, some of them picked up on my favorite part of the yard sale from last year: big bins of bricks priced by the size of the bag you fill.

I went to hear Jim Foulds, VIP from LEGO, at his Q&A. Another LEGO employee, who works on the minifigs, was there to answer questions about the series. Most of what I learned was that many things that would be nice aren’t being done and other things cannot be confirmed or denied. I find the marketing strategy interesting, but I know NOTHING about business. I have no problem with the way LEGO makes it difficult to determine what’s in a minifig pouch… but stating that the reason they took the barcodes off was to make it harder for AFOL over kids is just plain weird. If you’re marketing them as fun mystery packs for kids, that’s a fine strategy. But if you’re marketing them as collectables, it makes no sense, especially as adults are the ones with the money to buy hundreds of these things at a time and we’re able to read dot patterns because we want to spend our hundreds of dollars on the hundreds of minifigs that are useful to us. But whatever the reason, I’m glad the minifigs will be going until at least series 8. I’m looking forward to seeing what other minifigs will be included.

Following the Q&A was BINGO. Did I win anything? NO! I never win anything; why did you even bother to ask? LOL

Following that were the opening ceremonies. I miss all the door prizes (did I mention I never win anything?) but I left feeling excited. After a day of fixing broken MOCs, rushing around to get settled, rearranging pieces, etc. it was nice to relax and enjoy the fact that Brickfair 2011 was starting!

After that, I took a BUNCH of photos of MOCs. It’s always worth the convention fee just to have the ability to wander around and take as many photos of MOCs as you like (this year’s count was around 800). It’s fun to build & display, but it’s equally fun to just hang out with LEGO fans and talk about building with them. Those quiet times at Brickfair are precious, but I didn’t stay until closing (2am). I headed out around 10:30 or 11.

Day 2 (Friday):

I slept in about an hour then went to work for 20 minutes to put the accepted conference events online for the conference department. I probably could have done it from home, but my office is on the way to Tysons so it was faster to do it that way.

I went to the LEGO store with a shopping list in my head. If you spent $250.01 or more, you got 30% off (which is huge; LEGO is not cheap!). But if you spent $100.01-$250 you only got a 20% discount (which is still not bad). I had another 5 Pirates of the Caribbean sets to purchase and I desperately wanted the Medieval Marketplace. I told myself that if they had the marketplace, I’d buy enough to get the 30% discount. So I went and looked around. The store is smaller and not as well stocked as Potomac Mills, I’ve found. And though the employees were super nice and helpful (they started a pile for me behind the register), they also kept approaching me like I was at the Gap. I like to just be able to walk around and look at everything in peace. I eyed a Star Wars set and thought about buying it, but with no Medieval Marketplace to bump my price up, it wasn’t worth it. Just when I thought I’d seen everything in the store and decided there was nothing else I was dying to buy… guess what I spotted? *does the Medieval Marketplace dance of joy* The set that has been avoiding me for 2 years is finally mine! I ended up buying the Star Wars set as well as a Harry Potter set I already have (I intend to make it part of a Christmas present) and a Harry Potter keychain for my keychain collection. After discounts and subtracting LEGO VIP reward points dollars, I walked out with 9 items for about $200 including tax. I was a very happy LEGO girl.

I drove over to Brickfair and spent another hour taking photos and buying more stuff. I bought a little Modulex penguin (that marketing line about owning a piece of LEGO history totally got me; also, the penguin is CUTE! I bought one for my help_japan friend as well). And I put in an order for an engraved brick. I had a conversation with Mr. Red that makes me want to keep up with this hobby for the rest of my life, just to see his next project 🙂 Then I saw part of Karyn Traphagen’s Modulex presentation. They’re really interesting little bricks. Looks like you can do quite a lot with them.

I stayed for Arthur Gugick’s presentation on Architecture and went away even more inspired. He’s a great speaker and I didn’t expect an interactive portion so the fact that there wasn’t one didn’t bother me. The first thing I did when I went home that night was to grab an empty notebook so I could start a LEGO journal of my own notes & thoughts.

And I went to Jon Lazar‘s presentation about Promoting Your MOCs Online. It was hard to hear Jon and the lack of a working internet connection was a little difficult. But he had the pages he needed brought up already and he used his TARDIS MOC as a case study (I’d been wondering how it earned placement on the I wish he had touched on some of the LEGO-related social networking sites and how to integrate those into promotion. But as I don’t really care much about promoting my MOCs (sharing yes, but promoting them to a wide audience… not yet) the exclusion didn’t bother me.

After some more photo-taking and leaving a few LEGO books around the place, I listened to some of the charity auction but didn’t bid. Then I met up with Other Kate (melydia) and her husband at Cici’s. I didn’t even know pizza buffets existed, but having dinner there with them every year is now one of my favorite Brickfair traditions!

The Wachovia bank I’d gone to the day before for much-needed moneys had turned into a Wells Fargo overnight! Kind of spooky.

I went back to Brickfair to take more photos in peace and quiet and ended up going around with Chuck and then Chris for a while. Once again, it’s soooo worth the extra convention fee just to have time and space to fangirl LEGO creations with fellow builders!

Day 3 (Saturday):

I got to the Dulles Expo Center a little after 10am (public gets in starting at 11am) and there was already a really long line! I picked up my new engraved badge brick (DFTBA with a heart, in green) and wild released all my other BookCrossing books. So far, I’ve had no catches, but one of my fellow exhibitors told me he found one (YAY!) and I spotted a boy who had found another of them.

melydia (on crutches still, brave soul) and Bill came to Brickfair! Spending 5.5 hours sitting by your MOC and making sure no one touches it or any of the others at the tables around me can actually really exhaust a person (possibly the constant noise and dense crowd contributes to being draining) so it’s always a thrill to look up and see someone you know. It’s so wonderful that people I know come to support me, also. I hope Brickfair shows them a good time! Apparently, one of my coworkers brought her family as well, but I didn’t get her message until I got home Sunday morning and I didn’t see her 🙁

Immediately after public viewing, I headed out. I really wish I could have stayed for the evening events… but I had already spent lots of money, so maybe it’s best I missed the Yard Sale (one of my favorite parts of last year). And I wasn’t registered for any of the evening games.

In our goodie bags, we got coupons for free ice creams at Chick-fil-A. I haven’t eaten at one since midway through college. So it was awesome turning the coupon into nummy ice cream and dinner I ate while driving. What wasn’t awesome was that someone parked in the fire lane right behind my car so I couldn’t LEAVE. ARGH! I was starting to panic when the guy finally came out. And I made it to the concert I wanted to attend with dinner eaten and 2 minutes to spare!

The Carpe Geekdom concert was fabulous (read: I cried multiple times and laughed more than I cried). I was a backer on Kickstarter, so I really wanted to be there. It’s nice to have so many awesome things to attend… but tough when I have to choose between the two to attend! So I wasn’t bummed to miss Adult Swim at Brickfair. Instead, I got to hear fabulous music, buy more fabulous music, and show my membership card to pop a balloon for free to win a hilarious prize. Then I went out with the fans & the bands for second dinner afterward. Didn’t get home until after midnight. And then I went online and cast my vote for the Brickfair awards. Tough decisions this year, but most of the ones I voted for won. Yay 🙂

Day 4 (Sunday):

The last day of Brickfair is always bittersweet. Another day with the public is fun but daunting. I love talking about my MOC with people (always great to talk to more Harry Potter fans). And lots of my friends and family came to Brickfair today. A bunch of DADAers came with friends and family in tow, and it was fun showing them how the MOC had changed since they saw it on display at Potomac Mills in July. The Carpe Geekdom crew didn’t make it (little LEGO Colin Creevy was thoroughly disappointed) but my parents and sister came! I’d bought them tickets in advance, so they didn’t have to stand in line. It’s the first time my mom, dad, and sister could all go to Brickfair together. And it means SO much to me that so many people I know came out to see the LEGO creations because of me. *love them all*

Door prizes were drawn throughout the day. Almost everyone I was next to got one! Yay for them! Me? Nope. I never win anything, remember?

After public viewing, people IMMEDIATELY start packing up. It takes 2-3 days to get everything set up and people have their MOCs down, tablecloths off, and chairs folded within 2 hours. It’s kind of shocking and amazing… but it’s also terribly sad. Days of excitement… and then it’s all over and we have to say goodbye.

On the way home, I snarfed two new snarfs on Old Lee Highway that I’d passed on Friday on my way to Brickfair. It was actually a fantastic end to the weekend. I overdosed on LEGO goodness, bought some new bricks, and shared my MOCs. I got to hang out with lots of LEGO-loving geeks, see friends from previous years, and even make a bunch of new friends. I got to talk with lots of Harry Potter fans and go to a WRock concert where 5 different bands/musicians played. I released 12 BookCrossing books. And I logged 2 historical markers for Markeroni. That’s 4 out of my 6 hobbies in just a few days! I call that a good time!