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Annual Lego competition in Squirrel Hill brings out the builders

| Monday, June 10, 2013, 12:04 a.m.
Conor Ralph | Tribune-Review
Dan Efran, 42, of Squirrel Hill explains the art behind Lego building in front of S.W. Randall's Toyes and Giftes in Squirrel Hill on June 7, 2013. Efran has an entry in the ninth Lego contest at the store.

Yellow bridges stretch over rivers. Children ride bicycles and jump off diving boards into swimming pools.

This is Xander Perrin's vision of a perfect Pittsburgh, built entirely of Lego bricks.

“Because I live in Pittsburgh and I like it here,” said Xander, 5, of Squirrel Hill.

Brick by brick, people built dinosaurs and spaceships, hockey stars and World Series wins, their homes and their city for the annual Lego competition in S.W. Randall's Toyes and Giftes store in Squirrel Hill.

In its ninth year, the competition typically draws about 100 entries, said Gina McCarthy, a co-manager at the store. By the beginning of June, about 60 Lego sculptures filled the store's front window.

“People crowd around the window,” McCarthy said, adding that children often push their faces against the glass. “I've definitely wiped off a bunch of ice cream and face marks.”

In one entry, a battle rages between Star Wars stormtroopers, medieval knights, futuristic warriors, dinosaurs and other creatures. In another, the Beastie Boys perform a concert before about 35 fans. Each rapper holds a microphone. One has a baseball cap tilted to the side. A DJ stands to the side scratching records.

Kylie Tabor, 9, of Jeannette recreated one of her YMCA swim meets. In her sculpture, she races against two girls. Kylie's father cheers in the crowd, seated next to a vampire, she said.

Kylie's brother, Steven, 5, constructed a World Series win by the Pirates. The scoreboard displays “Let's Go Bucs,” spelled out in Lego bricks. A.J. Burnett pitches. Andrew McCutchen patrols the outfield.

“He's the best player,” Steven said of McCutchen.

Steven won his age group in the competition last year. Kayla Weinberg, 5, created a replica of her Squirrel Hill home and said she entered for the first time “because there wasn't a lot of girls” in the competition.

The competition draws mostly children — the 6-10 age group is the most popular, with 35 entries collected by June 6 — but adults join the fun.

Dan Efran, 42, of Squirrel Hill entered “Untethered: Friends Explore the Rings of Saturn.” Two women — figures from the Lego Friends, a new line of building sets targeting young girls with controversial Barbie-like figures — float in outer space among ice crystals.

The crystals nearly exhausted Efran's supply of clear pieces, about 300 of them. Lego pieces have developed far beyond their original brick shapes, said Efran, a computer game and app designer.

“You can really build anything,” he said. “I think of it really as an art medium, like clay or paint, rather than just a toy.”

Josh Hall, 30, of Bethel Park used Lego bricks to channel his passion for the Penguins. In his sculpture, “Sidney CrosBrick,” a 10-inch-tall Sidney Crosby looks bionic, “like this monster thing on ice,” said Hall, who founded a Pittsburgh Lego enthusiast club, Steel City LUG, last year.

Hall included the face guard Crosby wore early in the playoffs and emblazoned Crosby's sweater with a logo crafted from random pieces.

Aaron Aupperlee is a Trib Total Media staff writer.

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