This year’s Skaerbaek Fan Weekend (SFW) was one of the most successful to date with over 1000 participants from almost 30 countries. Although it’s billed as a weekend, the activities stretch over five days, and should probably be billed as the Skaerbaek Fan Week!
Read on to fnd out how I spent the last week of September.
Because there is a 9 hour time difference between the US West Coast and Europe, I left San Francisco on Monday evening, landing in Billund (via Copenhagen) early Tuesday night. There was enough time to get a quick dinner and then crash at my hotel for the night - or for a few hours at least, until the inevitable jet lag had me wide awake at 2 a.m. for a couple of hours….
On Wednesday I woke and had a somewhat late breakfast. My first stop of the day was LopLet. There’s been references to LopLet before - it’s a flea market/second hand store that sells a wide variety of items. Because it’s located in Billund, there’s quite a bit of LEGO merchandise available. LopLet has certainly increased in popularity in recent years. My first visits to the store a few years back there were times when I was the only person in the store. On Wednesday, however, I got there when they opened and the parking lot was totally full and the store was packed.
LopLet sellers have also noticed the increase in popularity, and the prices have adjusted upward accordingly. Here are some pictures of some of the offerings when I was there.
There’s usually something there for every taste. I have a penchant for Christmas builds, and I was happy to find this sealed copy of the 2013 LEGO employee gift.
While at LopLet I ran into several friends I’ve made at prior SFWs, so the visit turned into a very pleasant catch up session as well. Due to some fortuitous circumstances, I was invited along on an impromptu tour of the Idea House in downtown Billund for the afternoon. For those who haven't been, the highlights include seeing the original wooden duck, Ole Kirk’s original office and a visit to the vault, where I saw some of my “holy grail” sets as well as the sets I had when I was a kid.
Thursday was the official start to SFW, with AFOL Day at the LEGO House. The House is closed for the day except for AFOLs, and this year just over 600 participated. Jesper Vilstrup, the General Manager of LEGO House welcomed everyone in the morning and then introduced Thomas Kirk Kristiansen, the fourth generation of the Kristiansen family to be actively involved with the running of The LEGO Group. Jesper had a short interview with Thomas, who then officially opened the event.
AFOL Day at the LEGO House is quite busy, and there’s no possible way you can do everything you’d like to do. All of the Experience Zones are open. The new creations in the Masterpiece Gallery are available for viewing. Factory tours were running throughout the day. There were presentations going on in the auditorium which I would have liked to have attended but simply didn’t have time!
Every year there have been set designers available to sign their sets. This year, Justin Ramsden was there to sign the 75810 The Upside Down, and Milan Madge, Crystal Fontan and Aymeric Fievel - the model designer, graphic designer and fan designer - were available to sign the new 21319 Central Perk set. As this set has recently sold out at [email protected] in the U.S., I took the opportunity to get my copy of the set here and get it signed by all three designers.
With 600 people there, the line to get into the store were quite long (not to mention the line to pay for your purchases), and that took a good part of my time at LEGO House during AFOL Day. The excitement of the day wasn’t quite finished, as at 4 pm the results of the most recent LEGO Ideas review were announced. Brickset friends Andres from Zusammengebaut and Joshua and John Hanlon from Beyond the Brick were doing a livestream just prior to the announcements.
I’m looking forward to seeing all three sets when they come out! After AFOL Day, it was time to headed roughly an hour south to Skaerbaek, where we checked into our cabin. There were rumours of a whisky tasting event happening on Thursday evening, with all proceeds going to Brickset’s favourite charity, Fairy Bricks. As I’m not a whiskey drinker, I wasn’t there, but I’ve heard rumours that the event was a great success and will almost certainly be repeated in the future.
If there’s a “down” day at Skaerbaek, Friday could be it, especially if you’re not displaying a MOC. Friday is dedicated to registration as well as MOC setup. In addition this year, there was a special activity going on - the world's largest LEGO ship, the Jubilee Seaways, was being disassembled. SFW participants were offered the ability to buy the bricks from the Ferry at a price of €5/kg. Some bricks were glued, some weren’t, and all proceeds from the sale of the bricks were going to Fairy Bricks. It had been originally announced that any bricks left by Sunday would be hauled to a bulk recycler, but as it happens the bricks almost evaporated and they were all gone by late Friday afternoon.
(photo credit Huw for ferry pictures)
As I didn’t have a MOC to set up, I headed back up to Billund to spend a few more hours at The LEGO House. I’d noticed on my ticket the day prior that an annual pass could be had for 200 DKK, so I made sure to buy that. I was able to catch up on some of the activities in the Experience Zone that I hadn’t done during AFOL Day.
I had to get back to Skaerbaek by the late afternoon, as I was hosting the first meet and greet session for the members of GayFOLs community (you may remember their introduction here). The event was quite well attended, and I’ve already been asked to make sure that we have another event next year.
Saturday starts the heart of SFW, with the MOC display. There are also sessions and presentations throughout the day, so like many of the rest of the days, there are times when you wish you could be in more than one place at a time.
Presentations on Saturday included sessions on the LEGO Lead User Lab, LEGO Serious Play, and a couple of Q&A sessions: one with Aymeric Fieval, the fan designer of 21319 Central Perk, and the perennially popular “J&J”, also known as Jan Beyer and Jamie Berard.
The main draw of the event is of course the MOCs, and these get a lot of interest from LEGO employees. Jorgen Vig Knudstorp is known to visit and indeed was there on Saturday morning. In the afternoon about a dozen set designers could be seen wandering the display halls, checking out the MOCs. Here are just a couple of the great MOCs on display.
This was a collaboration build from Les Briques en Folie.
This creation by Deborah Higdon is headed to the LEGO House for Christmas!
Saturday evening is known at SFW for a large group dinner. About 600+ attendees get under a large tent for a barbecue followed by an auction of miscellaneous LEGO items, including some rare/retired/exclusive sets. For those who don’t participate in the barbecue, there are numerous smaller celebrations going on in various cabins.
One thing I enjoy most about Skaerbaek are all the new friends I make every time I attend. This year, I'd put out a plea for a hair dryer, failing to have brought one with me, and I offered a copy of 40358 Bean There, Donut That as barter for its use. A fellow attendee let me have the use of theirs for the weekend, and when I provided 40358 plus another small set as promised, in return I got a bottle of Polish mead. I made sure that made it into my suitcase (otherwise stuffed with LEGO) for the way home.
Sunday is the last day of MOC display and more presentations and workshops are held. Sunday's offerings included a parts workshop by New Elementary, and a workshop by the Women’s Brick Initiative. I’ll be writing more about the Women’s Brick Initiative and their workshops in another article. I also caught Andres from Zusammengebaut interviewing Huw about his favourite MOC of the show (which were Jonas Kramm's Game of Thrones creations).
On both Saturday and Sunday there were episodes of "Pa Kloss Hold: The Talk Show", where AFOL and journalist Are J. Heiseldal hosts an interview show with prominent LEGO builders. Included in this year’s line up Rod Gillies, Alice Finch, Jonas Kramm, Paul Hetherington, Eero Okkonen (designer of the winning entry in our recent Huwbot competition), and Anne Mette & Lasse Vestergard.
(photo credit: Joshua Hanlon)
Mondays are for goodbyes, but the action isn’t quite over yet. There’s some shopping opportunities available, as well as another chance to visit LopLet. Backstage tours of LEGOland are also offered. For me, Monday afternoon meant one last visit to the LEGO House, where I got to spend some more time in the Experience Zones, check out what was new in the History Zone and play with the new Mosaic Maker in the Masterpiece Gallery.
Throughout the weekend both Huw and I had chance to meet many Bricksetters - I gave away almost all the bricks I had! I thoroughly enjoyed meeting and chatting with everyone I met.
Tuesday is for traveling home; I’m typing this as I fly over the Atlantic. As always, it’s a wonderful week of memories and I think it may have been the most fun yet. Much credit goes to Stephan, Thomas, Caspar and the rest of the steering team of SFW for putting on a memorable event that seems to get larger and better every year.
Until next year!