Skærbæk Fan Weekend report

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Last weekend I attended the annual Fan Weekend in Skærbæk, Denmark. It was my second time there but looking back through the news archive it appears that I did not post a report last year so I guess I had better do so this time.

There has been a LEGO event in Skærbæk on the last weekend of September for the past 12 years. For the first ten it was organised by the LEGO community team and it was feared that the 2014 event would be the last when they decided not to fund it anymore. But, thankfully, a team of AFOLs stepped up to take over and as a result the event lives on, bigger and better than ever.

Skærbæk is a small town on the west coast of Jutland, some 50 miles/80km from Billund. The event is held at the town's leisure centre/holiday park which provides accommodation in the form of log cabins.

Skaerbaek 2016

(New Elementary and Brickish ambassadors enjoying the early evening sunshine...)

It's a truly international event. Most people are from Europe, of course, but among this year's 520 AFOL attendees were some from New Zealand, Japan, Australia, Brazil, and the USA. In total, some 28 countries and 50-odd recognised LEGO User Groups (RLUGs) were represented.

It was also well attended by people from LEGO this year: the entire community team was there, a multitude of designers (Marcos Bessa, Mel Caddick, Pierre Normandin and Jamie Berard to name just those I saw) and many others from the company, including owner Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen, could also be found wandering the halls and happy to chat with anyone who wanted to.

The event runs from Friday-Saturday: Friday is setup day, then on the Saturday and Sunday the public can visit the exhibition halls from mid-morning while presentations and workshops take place elsewhere in the building. This year these ranged from designers Marcos Bessa discussing his LEGO Direct sets and Mel Caddick explaining her work on extended line sets to sessions about the LEGO House and LEGO Rebrick. There is also an AFOL Lounge where exhibitors can chill out or enter building competitions.

A dinner for AFOL attendees is held on the Saturday night: some 420 were catered for this year, apparently, and it is a great opportunity to meet and chat with those from other LUGs. After dinner an auction of highly desirable items takes place and then the legendary 'after party' starts in hut number one, where one can sample alcoholic beverages brought by attendees from all over the world until the early hours while putting the LEGO world to rights.

Skaerbaek 2016

(420 AFOLs in the same room)

It is therefore a great event to network, to put faces to online names, to meet old friends and of course to make new ones, whether over a shared love of the brick or single malt whisky at the Saturday evening event. I was particularly pleased to meet Brickset contributor MeganL who came all they way from California to be there. It was the first time we had met.

The three talks I attended were excellent. Marcos Bessa is well know among AFOLs and is responsible for some of the best Super Heroes sets as well as many LEGO Direct sets. In his 50 minute presentation he discussed the latter and the 'Easter eggs' contained within (his initials on number plates, birthday marked on calendars etc.), and also touched on the controversial subject of the Ghostbusters Firehouse and its alleged similarity with the LEGO Ideas project. One thing I did not know was that as a member of the Portuguese LUG Comunidade0937 he managed to get the numerals 0937 (LEGO upside-down) into the set number of his first Direct set, 10937 Batman: Arkham Asylum Breakout, as a tribute to the club.

Skaerbaek 2016

(Marcos Bessa at the start of his presentation)

Mel Caddick detailed her work on extended product lines such as the seasonal sets and those for co-promotions with the likes of Toys R Us and MSC Cruises. Unlike many other design teams she is very restricted with what she can use: no new parts, re-colours, printed parts and so on but as we have seen she is still capable of producing some of the best sets in recent years. Unfortunately her talk coincided with the last half hour of lunch being served so I missed the second half of it (apologies Mel if you are reading!)

Finally, I attended a Q & A session with Jan Beyer, from the LEGO community team, and Jamie Berard. A lot of ground was covered including why the winter village toy shop was re-released but why the Cafe Corner never will be, why colours like sand red, an AFOL favourite, have not been resurrected, and also interesting information about designing sets for for certain age groups.

The public exhibition halls (two indoor football pitches) house the wide variety of MOCs brought by attendees as well as a large shop selling sets at well below Danish RRP and also several traders selling old sets, minifigures and loose parts.

Skaerbaek 2016

(One of the two exhibition halls)

There were many large world-class models on display and also a lot of small highly detailed constructions that were transported there in hand luggage, by those of us that arrived by air.

Although it's a public event, models are displayed more for the benefit of fellow AFOLs than visitors, who numbered just 2000 over the weekend this year. I did not take many pictures, I left that to the experts from Brick magazine who were photographing everything for their forthcoming Skærbæk digital special.

If you have never attended you should seriously consider going next year. It is difficult to get on-site accommodation because it sells out fast but there are a lot of alternatives nearby including on the beautiful island of Romo a few kilometres away.

Overall it is a hugely enjoyable event and one I can highly recommend. To get more of a feel of what it is like check out the Facebook group. Will I be there again next year? You can bet on it. The cabin has already been booked...

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the organising committee headed up by Caspar, Stephan, Thomas and Lluis for doing such an amazing job, Gary for chauffeuring me around all weekend, the Bricks and Fairy Bricks boys for their company, and everyone who stopped me to say hello. It did not take long to give away all the Brickset minifigs!

 

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28 comments on this article

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By in United Kingdom,

Great report Huw, it sounds like a good place to visit next year and I shall make a note in my diary, when I have bought one!

Just out of interest why will Cafe Corner never be re-released? Although I guess as Lego sets have moved on over the years it would be a large step back....

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By in Netherlands,

Given it's completely bare interior, i can imagine why they wouldn't re-release cafe corner, but i think it could do with and update. I'd also like to know the reason why they won't re-release it.

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By in Germany,

Nice report, Huw. And thank you for the minifig! :D

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By in Denmark,

Thanks for a great time, hope I can get time again to next year! And thx for the Minifig.

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By in United Kingdom,

The original CC was based on a door and window system that is no longer in production. The ground floor is sized around the 5-high door, and new ones are 6-high so a complete redesign would be needed.

We may well see another cafe on a corner, but not the original.

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By in Netherlands,

Thanks for the explanation Huw :) Maybe we'll get a new cafe in the future.
If i'm not mistaken, the upcoming Brickcon next week is where they usually announce the new Modular, right?

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By in United Kingdom,

Yes there has traditionally been a reveal at BrickCon of one of the January D2C sets, so we could be in luck again this year.

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By in Switzerland,

Thanks for a great report, Huw! Could you explain why colours like sand red (especially sand red!) have not been brought back?

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By in United Kingdom,

There's no technical reason why not but apparently the number of colours is currently fixed so to reintroduce it would mean losing another.

The decision was taken to increase the number in the palette when Friends was introduced that's unlikely to happen again soon.

@Adzbadboy I think 'fantastic' is stretching it a bit :-) It was something I knocked up over the summer that may form part of a train layout sometime in the future. It also happened to fit in my hand luggage :)

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By in United States,

Sounds pretty cool!

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By in Australia,

Since the other two questions from the article were answered (seriously though what were you thinking not putting those answers in the actual article?), what happened with the firehouse?

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By in Puerto Rico,

Thanks for this report.

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By in United Kingdom,

^^ As previously reported, it was all coincidental and the similarities such as certain details being in the same place were because that was where it was logical to put them. In other words 'great minds think alike'.

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By in United States,

Great report Huw...is there any YouTube recordings of the panels you mentioned? I'd love to watch some of them.

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By in Poland,

And what is the conclusion from this Q & A session? Why Toy Store was re-released?

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By in Serbia,

Thanks for the report, Huw! I like this event, even if I haven't participated in it yet. It's great to see that there is a place where you can meet AFOLs from all around the World, and see their MOCs, and to meet the "big guys" too - I mean the LEGO designers, the community team members, etc. The Skærbæk Fan Weekend should be so much fun, hope I'll participate in this event in the future... :)

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By in Portugal,

Ohh, I forgot to ask for one brickset minifig. Next time :)
Cool report, thanks Huw.

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By in United Kingdom,

^ I'll bring some to PdC :-)

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By in United States,

"The original CC was based on a door and window system that is no longer in production. The ground floor is sized around the 5-high door, and new ones are 6-high so a complete redesign would be needed."

this is a pretty big exaggeration. When I bricklinked my CC, I used 6-high doors. A few modifications were necessary, but nothing I would call anything approaching a "complete redesign" I'm not suggesting they should re-release CC or any other sets. But I find their usual array of reasons against doing so to be mostly just spin to avoid talking about the actual reasons - which may not be popular.

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By in United States,

were you able to ask about any other sets that might be re-released, like the UCS falcon?

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By in United States,

Sounds like a great event! Thanks for the report Huw.

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By in New Zealand,

Great - but brief - report, Huw! This is an event I'd love to get to but from NZ the cost and logistics as a one-off aren't something I can justify.

Maybe I need to convince my other half with some hard bargaining. She gets us to Disneyland Paris and I get us to every LEGO attraction and event in Europe. Sounds fair to me!

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By in Serbia,

@ARSLOCK - it didn't make sense to ask Jamie about themes that he is not involved with. He currently oversees Creator, Creator Expert, and Architecture.

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By in United Kingdom,

Actually, Huw, I think you'll find that Skærbæk is a small town on the EAST coast of Jutland...oh. Damn

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By in United Kingdom,

As a first time visitor to Skaerbaek this year, I was too late to get one of the cabins on site, but still managed to find a lovely place to stay about 15mins away. Very quite and actually quite a bit bigger than the cabins on site. My co-driver and I drove up from Amsterdam after taking the overnight ferry from Harwich. The drive was a long one, and the Friday afternoon traffic around Hamburg was a bit testing but it was all worth it. A fantastic weekend and I will be making a return trip again next year!

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By in United States,

Sounds like a really cool event! Thanks for sharing info about what you saw. Having under 500 folks for the meeting is a good idea....beyond that it gets unmanageable. It is fantastic that the Europeans have so many LEGO events to choose from and that distances are closer for them than here in the States. It must have been wonderful growing up with LEGO as a child, something we over age 50 Americans missed for the most part. Denmark is such a cool country to visit that anyone wanting to go should make the effort....just keep an eye on the weather if you plan on moving around outside much.

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