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Calling all kids, Legos invade Soulard Market

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, July 23, 2010 - Stop by Soulard Market on Saturday, and you'll see far more than just fruits and vegetables. Legos have come to Soulard.

Lego games. Lego sculptures. Lego trivia.

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St. Louis is the fifth stop in a 10-week promotional tour showcasing 10 new board games by the Denmark-based Lego Group. In a small park in front of Soulard Market, Lego staffers set up larger-than-life versions of the board games and waited for fans to arrive on Friday, the first day of the event.

Despite an expected heat index of 111 degrees, hundreds of interested residents flocked to the event. Why brave the heat for Legos?

"Because they're like the coolest toys ever," said Jake Carter, 10, taking a quick break from the games. 

At the center of activity is the tour's official "Gamesmaster," Ryan Carpenter, who oversees a family tournament every half hour. Kids from two families join Carpenter on the stage, where he helps them assemble puzzles while blind-folded or feeds them Lego trivia questions, such as "Lego is the world's largest producer of what auto part?" (Answer: tires, at 306 million a year.) Carpenter gives the winners free Lego board games, which are not for sale at the exhibition.

So how exactly does one become a Gamesmaster? "That's a tough question," Carpenter said. "I'm skilled at the games, but I really just know how to have a good time."

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Carpenter said his favorite game is Minotaurus, a game based on the ancient Greek myth of the Minotaur, a part-bull, part-human creature guarding a massive labyrinth.

In an oversized version of the game set up at the Soulard park, one child is appointed as Minotaur, while the others roll a dice and try to reach the maze's center without being caught by the Minotaur.

"You've made the Minotaur angry," one young Minotaur cried, growling and stomping around the board.

"Hey, Minotaur, pay attention!" his father shouted back.

Kids (and some adults, too) lined up next to a giant Minotaur statue, trying to guess the number of Legos used to build it and earn a free trip to a Legoland resort in California.

Alex Olendorff, 10, estimated 300,000 bricks. His father Joe Olendorff guessed 500,000. Ethan Michalicek, 13, decided on 10,115. "I'm not confident that I got it right, but I think it's a pretty good guess," he said.

Ethan's mother, Staci Michalicek, said her children all love Legos. "They're my Lego fanatics," she said. "We're a home-schooled family so they have lots of time to spend building and creating."

Ethan estimated his collection of Lego bricks was about double the number making up the Minotaur statue. But he is not the only fan to report a large Lego collection.

"I have more Legos in my house than I even know what to do with," said Jamie Osdieck, mother of Lego lover Lucas Osdieck, 9. "He's been playing Legos since he could walk."

Steve Ahrens played Legos when he was kid. Now his children, Breanna, 11, and David, 9, say they want to be Lego designers. David has been collecting Lego sets since he was 2 or 3.

"He's probably got 20 or 30 sets," Ahrens said. "I'd say over 50," Breanna said. "Maybe over 100," added David.

"That's where all my money went!" their father exclaimed, grinning.

Hodiah Nemes, a student at Yale University, is an intern at the Beacon. 

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