Inside BrickCon 2023, where serious LEGO geeks have been building for this moment

If you build it, they will come. Especially if you build a train, roller coaster, coral reef, space station, warship, castle, hot rod, battle scene or countless other things out of LEGO at BrickCon 2023.

The annual convention for enthusiasts of the timeless toy is taking place Saturday and Sunday at the Meydenbauer Center in Bellevue, Wash. Nearly 500 exhibitors have constructed about 800 models as a record crowd of 10,000 visitors is expected.

Now in its 22nd year, the convention, formally staged at Seattle Center, moved east this year to accommodate more builders, vendors and fans.

GeekWire got a sneak peek Friday night during a friends and family event in which LEGO geeks of all ages mingled around tables covered in creations of all sizes. These aren’t off-the-shelf sets sold by the Danish company. The models are generated by the imaginations of their creators — and there’s no glue or other adhesives holding the bricks in place.

Models are shown in a variety of categories, including Sci-Fi, Art, History, Fantasy, Town & Country, and Function. There are lights and sounds and moving parts galore on many of the intricate builds.

Longtime LEGO builder Wayne Hussey of Federal Way, Wash., with his space station. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser)

Wayne Hussey has been attending BrickCon since the start, and he’s got some memorable builds under his belt, including a 14-foot-tall Space Needle that ended up on display beneath the real thing four years ago.

This year he was showing off an outsized space station, which he started the day after BrickCon last year. Part of a 12-foot-long colony ship that he displayed last year is incorporated into the new build. But he’s still impressed by what others pull off.

“I feel humbled no matter what I build,” Hussey said. “I feel humbled by what I see other people building. And I’m always inspired by them.”

As a kid in the 1960s, Hussey was gluing together car and plane models. He gave up the hobby when he went into the military. When his niece was little, someone gave her a small LEGO set for Christmas, and Hussey said to himself, “I can buy LEGO for myself, I’m an adult now.”

“That was 48 years ago,” Hussey said. “I’ve been buying and building and saving and storing them ever since.”

Paul Hetherington of Vancouver, B.C., with his “It’s a Small World” LEGO build. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser)

Paul Hetherington has seen his share of impressive LEGO builds, and he’s been behind a good number of them. The Vancouver, B.C., native has won Best in Show at BrickCon a record five times.

This year he’s noticing more technology incorporated into builds. His own colorful take on the Disney theme parks boat ride “It’s a Small World” features several boats riding on “water” that is moving on LEGO train tracks, gears and other hidden mechanisms.

“This hobby is crazy,” Hetherington said. “There are so many people pushing the boundaries of these little bricks — that were intended as a toy — and coming up with these crazy, fantastic builds.”

Hetherington makes his living building with LEGO. He gets private commissions and stages public art shows. And after 30 years of building, he said the medium continues to evolve.

“Every year, it’s different,” he said. “There’s new pieces on the market that can open doors to new connections. Everything is possible with LEGO.”

Bre Burns, left, and Jessie Robertson of Bremerton, Wash., at BrickCon. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser)

Married team Jessie Robertson and Bre Burns of Bremerton, Wash., don’t have a specific category they stick to when it comes to LEGO builds. But they always seem to go big — and they’re running out of room.

“Our apartment of 625 square feet just wasn’t big enough anymore so we had to buy a house,” Robertson said. “And now the basement is 750 square feet and still not big enough.”

Robertson has a degree in mechanical engineering and tends to build more scenic/landscape models. Burns has a degree in zoology and leans toward technical stuff.

“What you do doesn’t necessarily match up to what you build,” Robertson said. “I like being creative.”

Several of the models at BrickCon this year are collaborations, constructed by multiple builders who are often not even in the same room. Robertson and Burns contributed to one such piece.

“I find it really cool that people can work together on a hobby from different parts of the United States and come together and have it work,” Robertson said.

BrickCon is open to the public Saturday and Sunday, with varying entry times between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. See more details and ticket info here.

Keep scrolling for more photos from GeekWire’s BrickCon tour:

A giant castle in the BrickCon Fantasy category. (GeekWire Photos / Kurt Schlosser)
The Union Bank Tower in Winnipeg was once Canada’s tallest building.
A coral reef with fish and plants that appear to sway.
Christmas comes early to BrickCon with a large snow globe.
Seattle Mariners star Ken Griffey Jr., immortalized in LEGO.
Two massive spaceships.
A replica of Ginkaku-ji garden, built in 1482 in Kyoto, Japan.
Color adds extra flair to model cars and a Star Wars AT-AT.
A food truck scene straight out of Portland.
A fantasy build called “World of Pandora” after the Avatar movies.
Rows and rows of LEGO Minifigures for sale by a BrickCon vendor.
Birds Aren’t Real, except for this LEGO one.
A very crowded LEGO Minifigure medieval battle scene.
Pee Wee Herman in the Art section at BrickCon.
An assortment of space fighter craft.
A Star Wars “Imperial Landing Pad” with stormtroopers in formation.