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Not just child's play

by: PHOTOS COURTESY OF LEGO - The Lego KidsFest, which comes to Portland Oct. 10 to 13, brings about 10 tractors full of Legos and accessories and thrill kids and parents alike.He just turned 30. He has kids. And, he still plays with Legos.

Proudly, Chris Steininger says the boyhood fascination with bricks and building have never left him, thanks in part to his father, Dan. Father and son now are each master builders, two of the seven in North America. Yes, Chris Steininger plays with Legos, and he’s pretty good at it.

“It’s such a creative product,” says Steininger, who’ll appear at Portland’s Lego KidsFest, Oct. 11 to 13 at the Oregon Convention Center, along with Eric Varszegi, another master builder. “Every day you can build something different. As a (master builder) group, we’ve done thousands of different models.

“It’s not about being complicated. It’s how we simplify things. We want to create things that inspire and excite kids and parents about playing with Legos.”

Steininger has helped build a 46,000-pound X Wing Fighter — 45 feet long, 45 feet wide. It was started at the Lego shop in the Czech Republic, and transferred to the United States and assembled in Times Square in May. From there, it went to Legoland California near San Diego, Calif.

Steininger also has worked on a life-size Lightning McQueen from “Cars 2.” The model, 12 feet long, six feet wide and five feet tall and weighing about a ton, will be at Portland’s KidsFest. His Buzz Lightyear model from “Toy Story” also will be at KidsFest.

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - One of the more popular attractions at Lego KidsFest is the mountainous pile of bricks.A few years back, father and son helped build a huge apple for Times Square — 15 feet tall, 12 feet wide. It took four days to construct and “it was easy because it was all one color.”

Steininger now is based out of the Lego North American headquarters at Enfield, Conn. His life has been about Legos, outside of some time spent working as a carpenter and woodworker. He became a model gluer, or builder trainee, then model builder, and then senior model builder. It took him a couple years, but eventually he became a master builder.

“My dad got me into Legos during spring and summer vacations,” he says. “I had a head start on the whole thing.

“I never grew out of Legos. There’s a timeframe for kids, normally in their teens, where they go through the dark ages and put away bricks when it’s no longer cool (to play). I continued to play with Legos, and focused on Lego Technic — using axles and beams and gears, where you can create moving objects like trains and trucks.

I like the whole mechanical

aspect.”

In the shop, the builders make bricks and pieces based on computer design for big projects. At the highest level, it’s much more than dumping out a container of bricks and building on a platform.

At KidsFest, Lego takes over three acres of the show floor, with 10 tractor loads of Lego content. Steininger and Varszegi will set up the Master Builder Academy for instruction, and there’ll be a big Lego store for people wanting to buy bricks and accessories.

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Chris Steininger (left) and his father, Dan, are two of the Lego master builders in North America. Chris Steininger will attend Portlands Lego KidsFest.“There’s pretty much every type of building for every type of builder,” Steininger says, of Legos. “It’s self-engaging, where kids and families can engage themselves.

“Lego is very popular, with kids growing up and going back to Lego, having kids of their own and imparting their love to their kids — like myself. I have a son, 21 months old, who’s starting with Duplo, a version of Lego. I hope he’s interested (in Legos). If not, he can do whatever he wants, as long as he isn’t a competitor.”