So I suppose I'm a bit behind in updating this, but I thought I'd give you all a summary of the first part of my recent vacation - BrickFair Alabama!
Things got off to a poor start when I forgot to set my alarm for my 6:45 AM flight. I'm a light sleeper though, and went to bed early, so I woke up with enough time to take a shower, eat something, finish packing, and hop in my car so I could park at a friend's place and catch a ride to the airport.
I feel the need to add that at 5AM it was already in the 50s in Maryland.
I got on a plane, flew to Charlotte, got on another one and made it to Birmingham by about 10AM thanks to the time difference. And it was cold. Like in the 30s cold. I thought it was supposed to get warmer as you went closer to the equator? A shuttle bus took me to the hotel and convention center and I checked into our room. Then I headed to the convention center and started distributing the floorpads, which I was in charge of. I helped out with some other stuff and then went back to the hotel room to wait for John (Watashi Wa) to arrive. Around that time he texted me to ask if it was snowing. I looked out my window to see it was coming down so hard I could barely see. There was very little accumulation though and it was all gone by the next day. They called it the 'Blizzard of 2013.' I laughed at how cute they were.
Anyway, John showed up and we got all the boxes out of his car - all the MOCs you guys sent in! We found some table space and began setting things up. Obsessionist once again wins the award for 'best instructions for how to assemble/disassemble a MOC.' You're awesome man. Anyway, with the space claimed and the MOCs mostly assembled, we headed out to find some food and ended up at Dreamland Barbecue, which was delicious. Their sauce was sweet and had enough of a kick to make it interesting and the service was excellent. Highly recommended. Back at the convention center we played some Bingo - I won the Maersk Train! Then we had the opening ceremonies followed by the door prizes. At some point during all the festivities Kevin Hinkle showed up, so we, along with a couple other AFOLs (Abner!), started harassing him. We talked for a good long while about all sorts of stuff from community support, to LEGO Stores, to when Abner would actually build a MOC. It got late as tends to happen so we went to sleep.
We slept in on Friday and when we eventually got motivated John and I took a walk to get my first ever Chick-fil-A. It was good, and I'd go back, but not something to go out of your way for. Back at the convention center, we discovered more Bionicle MOCs had shown up, built by a couple of the younger Technic builders. We incorporated their stuff into our display and finished setting up and arranging what we had. Kevin Hinkle hosted a session called 'AFOLs vs TLG.' He'll be doing it at all the North American events this year, so you should definitely sit in if you have the chance. He talked about a lot of the problems the Community Team faces sitting between the fans and the company and it was very insightful.
I forget what we did after that; that may be around the time we went and watched some How I Met Your Mother and New Girl. We came back at 5PM for the LEGO Q&A hosted by Kevin along with the 10232 Palace Cinema set reveal. It was actually pretty brief - I think people are finally running out of questions. I plan on asking you guys for some for BrickFair New England. Then I participated in the Combo Build - we were given an ExoForce set and a Chima set and had to build something in 30 minutes. I didn't win because I suck at building, but I got to keep the sets (up to three free sets!). Then we had to set up stanchions, for which I was also volunteering. As cool as some of the people there were, they pretty much abandoned us and there were only a handful worrying about setting up and taping down the stanchions. Alabama, I am disappointed. After that though we had the Organizer's Dinner - we were at the cool table with Kevin and Todd Webb. Lots of fun discussions and delicious free food and drink ensued. Thank you so much Todd!
Saturday was the first public day, and I got in early to start taking pictures. The nice thing about the smaller conventions is that it only takes about thirty minutes or so to get everything, versus two or more hours at a big convention like BrickFair VA. Then I had to set up the LEGO Guesstimate, which I was also running. We helped Todd with a couple more things, then grabbed some breakfast/lunch from Subway and returned to watch the public. There was a much bigger line than last year, and it wrapped around and around the lobby. There were a lot more people in general, and I feel like Saturday was close to matching Saturday and Sunday COMBINED from last year. A very good turnout and there were a lot of good comments on the Bionicle MOCs on display. Thank you everyone who sent your stuff in! Oh yeah, that reminds me, Brickthing's MOC got caught in customs, but it arrived late Friday, and John's sister was kind enough to bring it to us so it could join the display.
After the public hours, Kevin schooled us in a game of Minotaurus (I demand a rematch in New England!) and then went out to dinner with John and me. This is where the talk of a BZPower LUG started coalescing and Kevin talked to us some more about how LEGO is planning on supporting online communities and the challenges they face. We also talked about Pokemon a lot, and other videogames and things like that. Then we headed back to the convention center to get a closer look at things, watch the blind speed build, team speed build, etc. We wrapped up the night with more HIMYM and New Girl. We might have also watched Hamlet 2.
The highlight of Sunday was the NFL Conference Championships more public. Sunday was a lot slower than Saturday, especially to begin with, likely because a lot of people in the area participate in various religious activities on Sunday mornings. Things picked up though, and while it wasn't as crazy as Saturday, there was definitely an improvement over last year. I ran the Guesstimate again, which went well during all four drawings. I was approached by the Bird Theme Coordinator, who wanted to thank the five of us who participated in the bird theme by giving us free LEGO. I got a free Witch Doctor set, woohoo!
Before we knew it, we were kicking the public out and starting to pack stuff up. We got the Bionicle stuff down fast, then started on the stanchions. Then it was the floorpads, many of the boxes for which seemed to have disappeared. We took a break to attend the closing ceremonies where I unfortunately didn't win anything. Then it was back to breaking down for a while. Once we got to a point where a lot of the work was done, we brought all the MOCs back to the room, cleaned up (floorpads and stanchions get dirty!) and went to get some dinner at the hotel restaurant and watch the Ravens beat the Patriots. We ran into Todd and a few of the other volunteers there and were invited to their table where Todd graciously paid for our food again. The Ravens did indeed beat the Patriots, and everything was grand.
Then it was back to the hotel to pack up and get ready for leaving. I had a 6AM flight back to Charlotte, but from there I wasn't going back to Maryland. But that's a story for another entry.
Before I wrap things up, I'd just like to go ahead and thank a bunch of people:
Todd Webb (and his family) for hosting, running, and organizing BrickFair, and for his generosity in buying us food and other perks for volunteering.
Kevin Hinkle for being awesome, for donating some (unannounced) prizes for a contest later this year, giving us all sorts of insight into The LEGO Group, and for dinner.
John (Watshi Wa) for being our Bionicle Coordinator, receiving MOCs, helping out with setup and breakdown, driving me around, and for the delicious Chick-fil-A; less than two months until PAX East!
Everyone who sent MOCs in - Obsessionist, Brickthing, Great being Velika, Imatron, and Banjax2077 - thanks for making our display infinitely better than it was last year at BrickFair Alabama!
BFAL was a great event this year and I had a blast. I look forward to returning in 2014!