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Intricately detailed Lego cities will be displayed at BrickUniverse. / BrickUniverse Contributed Photo
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If you go

› What: BrickUniverse Lego Fan Convention

› Where: Chattanooga Convention Center, 1150 Carter St.

› When: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, May 18-19

› Admission: $15 ages 2 and older

› For more information: www.brickuniverse.com/chattanooga

Chattanooga hosts its first Lego Fan Convention on Saturday-Sunday, May 18-19, and it's stacking up to be an unforgettable debut with its special guest artists, interactive events and astounding Lego display models.

BrickUniverse will fill the exhibit hall with galleries of life-size Lego character sculptures and intricately detailed mini cities. There will be several building zones offering thousands of Legos for visitors to let their imaginations run wild and build with the popular plastic blocks.

Visitors can meet professional Lego artists, shop vendors in the Brick Merchants section or build spaceships and galaxies far, far away with Lego Star Wars-themed bricks in the Star Wars Zone. Big Brick Building is a building zone with Duplo bricks geared to young visitors.

View Lego galleries featuring amazing Lego sculptures of Santa's Workshop, Palace in Wonderland, Lego Mosaics, Joker's Funhouse, Atlantis and the Golden Gate Bridge.

There is also a challenge area in which visitors are given a theme and have five minutes to build a piece representing that subject.

Award-winning Canadian Lego artist Paul Hetherington is one of the four featured brick artists coming to BrickUniverse. It's one of about a dozen guest appearances he will make in a year. He began building with Legos at age 3, like most preschoolers, but lost interest around the age of 11, then returned to building 25 years ago when he was 22 years of age.

"I walked into a toy store, found a Lego set, and it brought on such a feeling of nostalgia that just on instinct I bought it. It changed my life. Now I make all these big models, travel around to cities and most of my friends are involved with Legos. So it has become almost a lifestyle," he said during a phone interview from his home in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Hetherington says it took almost 10 years to collect enough bricks to create his large works of Lego art. The first was a train conductor wearing a red hat based on a mini figure. That piece will be among the 14 or so displays he brings to BrickUniverse — which represent about six years of work, he says.

His models are not glued, although he concedes he occasionally uses packing tape to hold pieces in place when traveling. He carefully packs them on pallets in wooden crates and ships them. One model alone — his massive sculpture of Poseidon — is comprised of 20,000 bricks.

"He was built for a museum doing a mythology show. Inside Poseidon's throne is a little model of Atlantis with mermaids swimming around and shark guards," he describes, adding children at BrickUniverse will enjoying searching for SpongeBob SquarePants hidden in the model.

Hetherington "guarantees" visitors at BrickUniverse will be entertained.

"Legos are for young and old; kids love that they can come play with Legos and adults are entertained by the quality of the models. Everyone has had an experience with Legos at some point. Kids are always pointing out pieces they have. You don't see unhappy people at a Lego convention. Everyone is there to have a good time."

Organizers advise that these fan conventions typically sell out, so they encourage purchasing tickets in advance online at www.brickuniverse.com/chattanooga. Plus, you can save $3 by ordering your admission in advance. Print out your e-Admissions or mobile ticket and bring it with you to the event to gain admittance.

Contact Susan Pierce at spierce@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6284.

SPECIAL GUESTS

* Greyson Beights: He founded BrickUniverse in 2015 at age 14 to inspire the next generation to use their imagination and creativity.

* E.J. Bocan III: Based in Cleveland, Ohio, he builds Lego masterpieces that are displayed across the country in exhibits called “Art on the Block.”

* Rocco Buttliere: This Chicago-based artist is known for his 1:650 scale models of world landmarks built in Lego bricks. His work has been showcased around the world.

* Raymond Griffith: This Oklahoman is a master caricature artist. At BrickUniverse, he will draw custom caricatures of convention guests as Lego minifigures.

* Paul Hetherington: Multiaward-winning Lego artist is bringing all five of his Brickcon Best in Show displays as well as his 2016 Lego Creation of the Year, “Batman vs. Joker Gotham Theater Showdown.”

* Jonathan Lopes: San Diego-based Lego artist who focuses on urban landscapes, conceptual art and life-size sculptures. He will bring 30 of his Lego displays, including an 8-foot-tall model of New York City’s Woolworth Building.

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