Part of Fairfield Ludlowe High School was transformed Saturday into an elaborate village called Justinville, and it sat side by side with an equally elaborate outer space scene with a mix of dinosaurs and space ships.
Between the two there had to be more than a million LEGO bricks and pieces, and it was built by LEGO masters. Those displays, and others by local children and teens, were one feature of the 4th annual b-Cause Foundation's LEGO Block Party.
The children's LEGO displays included simple vehicles and house facades to elaborate installations of castles and dragons, Star Wars scenes, tree house villages and a brownstone streetscape, comprising thousands of the plastic blocks and representing thousands of hours of work.
"I built the epic dragon battle. It's a four-headed dragon," said Liam Banick, 7, of Milford.
One child created London Bridge. Another replicated the Sydney Opera House. One child built a Coast Guard vessel and floated it in the water of a fish tank. Siblings Brendan and Sean Sullivan used their LEGO display to pay tribute to Fairfield's first responders, creating fire trucks, an ambulance and other rescue vehicles and emergency workers in action.
"You can get ideas from here. Look closely at what they've done," Kathy Callaghan of Trumbull told her son James, 7. It was their first time at the event. "He's aging up so LEGOs are becoming age-appropriate for him. He shows a lot of patience and interest. It's better than TV and video games. He takes pride in it. It's a finished product you can share with others," Callaghan said.
The estimated 2,000 people who attended the event marveled at the children's displays and the LEGO brick masterpieces of Julia Lawlor, 13, of Fairfield. Lawlor, an aspiring engineer, creates portraits of famous people with LEGO blocks. From close up they don't look like much, but step back and the images come sharply into focus.
"I started with kits but I thought free-build was more interesting and advanced. I found an app that pixelates images. The pixelations are square so they look like LEGOs," so it made sense to do her portraits in the brand name block, she said.
At the Block Party, cornucopias of LEGO pieces spilled onto tables giving children, parents and friends a chance to try their own had at creating.
"We're exploring and trying to build stuff of our own," said Ted Heyn of Fairfield, who attended his first Block Party event with son Teddy, 5, and daughter Mary, 3.
Event organizers got a kick out of the kids' creativity, their reactions to having Star Wars-costumed characters wander the event and pose for photographs with them, and the joy that little girls expressed at the opportunity to dress up and walk a red carpet at the Sparkle and Shine station.
But what warmed their hearts most was the knowledge that the Block Party was raising funding for local children's charities and helping to raise awareness of children in need.
Each of the children's displays carried a message as to why they helped raise funding for the event: "b-Cause I wanted to help Make-a-Wish because they helped my friend Ethan," said Sean Sullivan; Andrew and Sawyer Bacro agreed that the event was a fun way to support people in need.
"There's fund-raising and friend-raising," said Cindy Citrone, a member of the b-Cause organization, a charitable group seeking non-profit status. Citrone said the aim of the group is to have children helping children. One of the foundation's objectives is to "educate children to recognize neighbors in need in our local community and to provide service opportunities for children to help children and families," according to its website.
The group encourages youth to come up with their own initiatives.
Annabel Barry, 16, of Fairfield, started Project ICE, which organizes local children making blankets for those in need. "It empowers kids in the community to experience the joy of giving back. It benefits both the giver and the receiver," Barry said.
Proceeds of the Block Party will benefit Make-A-Wish Connecticut, Operation Hope and the Discovery Museum and Planetarium. So far this year the group has raised about $35,000, but that number is expected to jump dramatically with the money raised at Saturday's Block Party.
"It's amazing how there's so much to do and it helps a good cause. It makes you feel good while enjoying LEGOs," said Steele Citrone, 12, of Fairfield, Cindy Citrone's son.
For more information, visit www.ctblockparty.com