‘I’m looking at a child who someday is going to build airplanes I fly’: Lego show expected to attract young and old

James Stark legos

James Stark displays some of the robots he has built with Legos. | David Adam

QUINCY — James Stark promises both kids and adults will have fun at the inaugural Ultimate Brick Show on May 4-5 at the Oakley-Lindsay Center. 

However, the eyes of the 22-year retired Air Force veteran light up when he sees a child’s interest grow as they see the possibilities of Legos.

“The FIRST LEGO League is huge in St. Louis because Boeing is there,” Stark said. “You get Boeing engineers who walk into those shows, and they look at the kids and say, ‘If you can code a robot, I need six more of them.’  I’m looking at a child who someday is going to build airplanes I fly, the engines that run anything, the robots that make your cars.”

He also expects to see people like himself coming from what he calls “the dark ages.”

“That’s when you play (with Legos) as a child, and then you go into the dark ages,” Stark said. “You go through high school. You have girlfriends who aren’t into Legos. Three days out of high school. I left for the military. Twenty-five years later, I’ve been at 12 different bases, and you can’t take a Lego collection and move it like that. 

“So now my wife and I are at Scott Air Force Base, and while I’m retired, my wife has three more years left. And I told her, I think I’m going to get back into Legos.”

His partner at TW Bricks, Tim Woods, returned to working with Legos after back issues in 2021 limited his mobility. He eventually started a YouTube channel and joined the Gateway Lego User Group (better known as a LUG) in 2022. Stark joined the LUG in 2023 and met Woods.

“We kind of naturally like glued together, because we both build Lego mosaics,” Stark said.

They enjoyed going to Lego shows, but the closest to the St. Louis area was a five-day event in Chicago. Woods and Stark wanted to create a Lego show closer to home, and last year they had their first one-day event in Marion, Ill., which attracted more than 4,000 people. They’re adding the Quincy show this year while also having a two-day show in August in Marion.

Stark said vendors from New York and New Jersey attended the Marion show last year. Vendors from Texas, Wisconsin and Michigan already have committed to coming to Quincy. He’s looking for more people like himself who live in and near Quincy.

“I’m telling you right now in Quincy, there are guys who are building in their back bedroom. There are guys who are building in the basement,” Stark said. “A lot of them say, ‘Well, I built from a set and kind of just made it mine, and maybe nobody’s going to be interested.’ I’m interested. My partner’s interested. Everyone who’s going to come to that convention wants to see what you created. Bring it out. We want to see it.

“I don’t think we’re having problems with the attendees because it’s Dogwood weekend, and that brings thousands of people to town.”

Bricker Builds from Atlanta, which specializes in creating massive Lego sculptures, pop culture characters and fantasy weapons, will be in attendance. A builder from Texas will create a castle during the event, and another builder from Arkansas will create a slot car track. Zach and Tim Croll from Meadville, Pa., are two of four past contestants from the FOX television show “LEGO Masters” expected to attend. 

Along with the spectacular builds, Stark promises there will be simpler fun for the age 2-5 crowd by using Duplo bricks.

“We found that when you take color and the size of the brick away from a person to have them build, their imagination just runs wild,” he said. “Duplo bricks are the big ones that little kids can’t swallow, and I have 250 pounds of it that I bring for the little kids. We usually set up chairs in between so families can just stay and let the kids play.”

Tickets are $10 in advance and $12 at the door. Children 3 and under are free. Hours will be 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, May 4, and Sunday, May 5, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. 

Stark, 48, hopes for the Quincy event to become an annual show. It would allow the 1994 graduate of Unity High School who now lives in Lebanon (near Belleville and O’Fallon) to return to the area more often. 

“It’s good to come back home, but it’s difficult because I just lost my mom recently,” he said. “Both of my parents are gone, but I have one grandmother who’s still around. It’s a mix of emotions.”

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