By ALLEN RAU
The instant the first three kids streaked through the door at the Washington County Library in Gray, it became obvious the night would be successful.
Nick Steines, the teacher of the Lego Club, already had all the snacks set up, the video game primed and the spare Lego bricks ready to go.
“Lego Club is more than anything a place to come for kids, teenagers, adults or anybody that has an imagination to create … with Legos, you can build something, tear it apart, and build something completely new,” Steines said. “There’s so much involved with it. There’s so many things you can do.”
Restarted three years ago at the Jonesborough Library by Steines, the club expanded to Gray in January.
Steines said the Jonesborough sessions usually have more attendees but last Thursday in Gray was the most popular yet this year with 30 participants, thanks to the “Video Game” theme.
According to Steines, the Lego Club meets once per month at each location, and each month has a different theme. January’s theme was “Star Wars” while this month’s video game theme meant the kids were able to take turns playing the Lego video game while making completely original Lego creations.
“(Today) is what we call a free build day. They’re able to build whatever they’d like the entire day … on certain themes, they try to build towards the theme for that day,” Steines said.
Next month’s theme is scheduled to be Minecraft Legos, and the guests’ creations will resemble characters or items from the popular game. Steines said he already has all his themes selected and is confident they will be successful. He is also already planning for the future.
“I have my themes so now it’s about trying to find more people,“ Steines added, “I haven’t heard of any adult Lego programs in the area so maybe that’s where to go. As long as these two (locations) keep going, that’s where I’ll head to next, trying to get adults.”
The local “Friends of the Library” organization provides funds for the club to purchase healthy snacks and drinks for the guests. There is also a limited supply of Lego bricks for those guests with limited financial means, but bringing your own bricks is recommended. Steines also has a draw for Toys R Us gift cards every month.
Even with the additional perks, Steines said the most important and rewarding reason to attend is the interaction between the attendees, most of whom are children.
“I think it’s just a good way for the kids who don’t know each other to really bring (themselves) together … and I’ve been seeing a lot of kids helping other kids with the building,” Steines said.
The parents that tag along with the kids have their own reason to attend, he said. “It’s a good thing for the kids, but it’s also a good thing for the parents. It gives (the parents) a chance to have the kids in a room with someone watching … so they can check out a book for themselves or for their kids, or just gives the parent a small break away from the kids so they can relax a bit.”
After constructing a colorful Lego rainbow, Jack Norvell, a home-schooled first grader from Johnson City, pondered the question of what his favorite Lego character was.
“Dinosaurs,” he replied with a wry grin, “Jurassic Park Legos.” Norvell then sprinted towards the table with the video game console, more than ready for his turn at virtual Legos.
For more information about Lego Club, call the Gray Library is (423) 477-1550 and the Jonesborough library is (423) 753-1800.