The love of the brick
LEGO Display Days returns for its annual weekend at Bay Beach Amusement Park
By Rachel Sankey
The name “LEGO” comes from the Danish words “leg godt,” or “play well.”
Founded in 1932 by Ole Kirk Kristiansen, LEGO has spent the last 90 years helping develop the minds of children.
As time passed, more and more fans of the classic building blocks banded together, forming groups in the community, better known as LEGO User Groups (LUG).
When Scott and Jennifer Vandeleest and their children attended Brickworld – one of the biggest LEGO events in the U.S. – they were able to meet a ton of Adult Fans of LEGO, or AFOLs, who were a part of LUGs around the country.
“LEGO actually recognizes these groups,” Scott Vandeleest said. “You can apply to become a recognized member. So we joined a LUG down in Kenosha, because there wasn’t anybody up here in Northeast Wisconsin. We tried (to form a LUG) for a number of years, and we found that people were interested, but not enough to form our own group.”
It wasn’t until about five years ago that Vandeleest said his now co-lead, Kevin Wagner, reached out about putting more effort into creating a group within the Green Bay and Fox Cities area.
From there, Foxlug was born.
What does Foxlug do?
The LEGO enthusiast group, which Vandeleest said started out with about five to six people, now has about 50 members, with 35 of them being consistently active.
Foxlug is geared towards AFOLs, however, children are able to come to meetings with their parents.
Foxlug meets monthly. When the COVID-19 pandemic started, he said they turned to virtual options to meet.
At the monthly meetings, Vandeleest said the first half hour covers business-related topics, such as how an event from the previous month went.
The other half is when the “fun stuff” happens.
The group will engage in a variety of activities from month to month, Vandeleest said, such as a roundtable show-and-tell of sorts, where people show off something they’re building and ask for advice, or a build challenge, where members create something on the spot.
Foxlug also does LEGO drafting, which Vandeelest said has similar elements to a fantasy football draft.
“Everybody will bring in the same set, so imagine we have 10 members, and we’ll bring 10 of the same set in the box,” he said. “We’ll take all the parts out of all the boxes, and we’ll sort them by type. So let’s say one box had five white bricks in it. With 10 boxes, you‘ll have 50 white bricks. We’ll put all the white bricks together. We take all the unique pieces and put them all in piles. Then we’ll draw numbers, and let’s say there’s 10 of us, you’ll get a number from one to 10, and then we’ll draft parts. So if I have the first pick, and I really wanted those white bricks, I’ll get to take a whole pile of 50 white bricks. You keep going through the numbers until all the parts are drafted.”
For MOC (My Own Creation) builders, Vandeleest said the draft can be really helpful to get them the pieces they need without having to buy 10 of the same LEGO set.
On top of the monthly meetings, he said the group typically attends a LEGO event each month. For June, Foxlug attended Brickworld.
As the years have passed, Vandeleest said Foxlug has spread outside of Northeast Wisconsin.
“As the word has gotten out, we’re drawing from a much larger area,” he said. “We have two members from the Upper Peninsula, we’ve got members north of Wausau and as far south as Fond du Lac.”
LEGO Display Days
This year’s LEGO displays are set for July 9-10, at Bay Beach Amusement Park.
The event features more than 50 tables of displays, making it one of the largest LEGO setups in Wisconsin.
There will be a variety of different displays from several different groups, such as Foxlug themselves and KLUG in Kenosha.
Vandeleest said KLUG member, Eric Krauser, brings a working amusement park each year.
“That’s a huge attraction,” he said. “You’re at an amusement park, and you get to see a working LEGO amusement park.”
Other builds include Harry Potter displays, Marvel vignettes, grand view cities, mosaics and collaboratives, which Vandeleest said is where multiple builders contribute to the same layout.
There will also be multiple LEGO competitions taking place on Saturday, with a variety of age groups.
And, of course, it wouldn’t be a LEGO event without LEGO vendors.
While Foxlug only started about five years ago, Vandeleest said he’s been working with Bay Beach on the annual event for much longer.
“The first year that it happened, Green Bay Parks ran it by themselves,” he said. “I wasn’t involved at all. I found out about the event the weekend of, and I showed up and did the judging for the contest.”
Vandeleest said he’s been a part of the LEGO display event ever since.
Vandeleest said feedback from the community on the annual LEGO event has been nothing short of amazing, and a lot of that is thanks to the Green Bay Parks department.
“Green Bay Parks doesn’t do this to make money, they do it for the community,” he said.
Vandeleest also said being a judge for the contests is incredibly rewarding.
“We set up tables and the kids sit behind their creations. It’s super rewarding for us to go talk to them,” he said. “We’ll interview each one of them. The kids get to describe their builds and you see how proud they are of what they’ve created. What is really cool about LEGO is that it’s very much a creative thing. And when you create something, there’s a level of pride in what you’ve created.”
The most important part to the LEGO community, Vandeleest said, whether it be with the LEGO display event, Foxlug or other groups, is to inspire children.
“Obviously Foxlug has a love of the brick,” he said. “The real motivation for building these MOCs and getting them out in the community is really to inspire other kids and show them what’s possible. It’s super rewarding, and that’s why a lot of us do this.”
For more information on Foxlug and the LEGO display event, head to foxlug.org.
Rachel Sankey is the associate editor of Green Bay City Pages. She can be reached via email at [email protected].