All three days were sold out -- more than 27,000 tickets. People waited nearly two hours to get in. Some fans lingered, not wanting to leave when the show was over.
All that for a three-acre room full of Legos.
That's right -- the colorful little toys some of us used to play with as kids that, if we were lucky, might become something vaguely resembling a race car or robot.
The San Jose Convention Center last weekend hosted the Lego KidsFest, which looked like the giant playroom of a 7-year-old super genius. There were colossal piles of blocks for kids to play in. There were incredibly accurate models of larger-than-life superheroes and movie characters. Two official "master builders" (out of only seven in existence) gave demonstrations in front of hundreds of people. In a mini-city of Legos, skyscrapers stood taller than humans. In the gallery, kids and parents could hang their creations on a wall.
And, of course, there was a big Lego store, where parents could easily drop a few hundred bucks on not-so-inexpensive play sets. Because only a bad parent would tease their kids with hours of Legos and not take any home.
It was genius. And, for once, I didn't mind a bit of economic manipulation. Working in three dimensions fires up kids' imaginations and creative abilities, a nice change for the often zombied-out gamers.
"Kids go from Legos, to building (real) robots, to ... what? It's limitless," said the event's PR coordinator Tracey Weiss, pointing out that playing with Legos can be the first step for long careers in fields requiring imagination. "This is a great success. Look at all these happy people."
Right. It was called Lego KidsFest. I suppose that turned all us adults sitting on the floor building airplanes and spaceships into kids again. Clearly, some of us were out of Lego shape.
Not the kids. In fact, the kids in this generation of Lego users have great imaginations. Compared to their parents, they seem like dazzling, colorful high-definition Jumbotrons sitting next to old black-and-white TVs with rabbit ears on top. For parents whose kids spend way too much time in front of televisions and smartphones, that's a wonderful thing to see.
Ironically, some of our kids discovered Legos through the television shows the company has smartly developed in recent years featuring animated characters that look like they're made from the little interlocking shapes. It's hard to believe that kids accustomed to today's sophisticated special effects and computer-generated animation actually love watching blocky Lego characters going on adventures. Yet the shows seem to inspire kids to pick up the real thing and make their own worlds.
There was so much to see and do; four hours wasn't nearly time enough to get all the way through the massive room before closing time. Weiss said the seven-city tour, which is a few years old, varies its locations every year and doesn't usually go to the same city two years in a row.
That may change after three days in the heart of the Silicon Valley, where young Lego builders can become the tech giants of the future.
"I got to play with Lego sets that I don't have at home," said 9-year-old Dominic Legaspi, of Concord, after a session at the Master Builder Academy. "Your mind is focused, and they gave us challenging sets to work on."
Kids with focused, challenged minds -- what a heartening concept.