Bryan Bonahoom is one lucky dude: He's a grown man who gets paid to play with LEGO building bricks. The brains behind the outfit called Brickworld Indy is building multiple displays for the 2015 State Fair, and the most ambitious of those will take center stage at the Visit Indiana Harvest Pavillion.
"It's the 'Year of the Farmer,' so we are constructing a 12-and-a-half foot by five-foot 'typical Indiana farm,'" says Bonahoom. "It's going to have some corn fields, soybean fields, pastures, barns, all the equipment — just like if you're driving by a farm on a country road."
Sometimes Bonahoom builds at LEGO "minifigure" scale, sometimes not. "Minifigures" are the little LEGO people that stand about four bricks — or one-and-a-half inches — tall.
"There'll be a separate display that's not minifigure scale with a little more detail — a table full of farm equipment."
Bonahoom has to calculate fairly carefully when he considers just how many bricks will wind up as part of the farm model. "I'm going to estimate it'll be about 80,000 pieces," he offers.
And yes, constructing a convincing-looking farm out of 80,000 small, plastic, mostly-rectangular components requires a good bit of planning. Depending on the item, Bonahoom and his cohorts build what amounts to a series of "storyboards" that illustrate the literal "what-goes-where-and-when" during the construction process. "We did an overview of the farm, then considered what was corn going to look like, what was soybean going to look like — then you calculate the number of pieces you need and you get started building."
More complex structures, though, require a higher-tech approach: "One of our projects for the fair was actually fully CAD-modeled," says Bonahoom. "We actually have software that can help with computer design on the models." (There are builds in the works for the fair this year that Bonahoom's not allowed to reveal — you'll just have to wait until the show opens to marvel at the LEGO mastery.)
Those bricks are pricey: "There's going to be about $10,000 in purchased material in everything we're building," figures Bonahoom, and after the models are shown at the fair, they'll live on at the grounds. (Bonahoom's quick to point out that although the initial investment in LEGO bricks is a little expensive for most families, its durability and flexibility means it far outlasts many other toys.) The fair's actually purchasing the Brickworld projects, and will use them during summer camps and the like. The models will be displayed next year, too, and the fair is already discussing the notion of expanding the Brickworld display for the Hoosier Bicentennial edition of the fair.
"The current scale only translates to a ten-acre farm," says Bonahoom, laughing. "It's not that much true acreage."
Bonahoom started as a hobbyist in the early 2000s and ended up attending adult LEGO fan conventions. Soon Bonahoom was running his own shows, and now Brickworld is his full-time gig. "We're running five different shows this year, and then I do commission work on the side," says Bonahoom.
"What could be more fun than someone paying me to build with LEGO?"