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Annual Lego exhibit in Halifax inspires new generation of builders

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Since Owen Grace was a child, he always had a love for Lego.

"Ever since I got some of the first (Lego) city sets, the old farm and gas stations and things like that from the 1970s, I've just continued to grow my collection. I build without the instructions because I really want to get inside the mind of the builders from Lego," Grace said.

For the last 20 years, Grace has been sharing his childhood hobby with people of the East Coast through a Lego exhibit he calls, "Bricks by the Sea."

It features a 20-metre long massive and elaborate Christmas city displayed at Halifax's Museum of Natural History along with other large and unique Lego builds.

"We're looking at about 250,000 Lego pieces (in the Christmas village) with a couple Titanics, an Eiffel Tower, custom-built pieces, that would probably add another 50,000 pieces on top of that," Grace said.

The Christmas city features a moving miniature Lego train and windmill along with multiple buildings that light up at the press of a button.

Peter Driscoll, originally from Dartmouth, N.S., travelled from Kelowna, B.C., to visit family and brought his son, Jack, to see the exhibit.

"The work and the time and the effort that the builders put into this project and this display is just amazing," Driscoll said.

"There's a lot of really cool Lego sets here and it really inspires me to keep building with my Lego pieces. You can come back 10 times a day and still find something new here," Jack added.

The Lego exhibit, "Bricks by the Sea," seen at the Museum of Natural History in Halifax. (CTV News/Creeson Agecoutay)

Multiple scenes from blockbuster movies like "Home Alone," Marvel's "The Avengers" and Pixar's "Up" are featured in the city.

Eagle-eyed visitors can find local Halifax landmarks like part of the city's waterfront, complete with boats and the local downtown comic shop, and Dartmouth, Nova Scotia's Woody The Talking Christmas Tree. There is also a separate Lego replica of the Halifax Citadel National Historic Site.

"Since I've been doing this, I have some of the grandparents that used to bring their grandchildren to the exhibit. Those kids have now grown up and have children of their own. It's been a lot of fun," Grace said.

A software architect and extreme Lego fan, Grace has also been part of a long-running Maritime Lego enthusiast group called MariLUG. The group offered to help with this year's exhibit, adding extensions to the Lego village, as well as various custom Lego builds.

"We invited all the (MariLUG) members to come. We got a big turnout, it was a huge effort, all week long we were here until 8 or 9 o'clock at night. I was the one usually locking up by the end of the day," MariLUG vice-president Shawn McLeod said.

Owen Grace speaks to CTV National News about his Lego exhibit, "Bricks by the Sea," on display at the Museum of Natural History in Halifax. (CTV News/Creeson Agecoutay)

When asked how much Grace and McLeod spend on their hobby, the two offered some interesting answers.

"I have no idea how much money I have spent over the years, part of it is I don't look, it's just too much fun," Grace said.

"I can't fathom how much money I spent on Lego, it is unbelievable," added McLeod, who is also a Lego ambassador representing MariLUG.

Shawn McLeod stands with a Lego sculpture of a bust of Owen Grace at the Museum of Natural History in Halifax, where the exhibit, "Bricks by the Sea," is on display. (CTV News/Creeson Agecoutay)

"I think this last week alone, with Black Friday and Cyber Monday, I think I cleared about $5,000 in Lego purchases. That's rare and might be all of the Lego that I will buy for the next year."

Despite the cost, both say they organize the exhibit to bring the community together.

"You can build Lego and put it in your basement but it's really nice to see the look on people's faces, and it's not just kids, it's the older generations, as well," McLeod said.

"It's for everyone's own enjoyment and the community saying, 'Oh, that's a set I want or that's what I like doing or want to build,'" Grace said.

Correction

This story has been edited to clarify Owen Grace and Shawn McLeod's associations with MariLUG.

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