KC's new king of the Legos

Building master models using plastic Lego bricks may not be rocket science, but for one aerospace engineer it was a higher calling than the stars.

Cal Walsh, the master Lego builder for Legoland Discovery Center in Dallas, was in Kansas City over the weekend. He came to judge a contest at Crown Center where 171 Lego-building enthusiasts from around the Midwest competed for a chance to be the master model builder at the planned Legoland attraction in Kansas City.

“It’s a dream job,” said Walsh, who got his degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Texas. “It is getting paid to play.”

The $15 million, 30,000-square-foot Lego center is set to open in Kansas City in May at 25th Street and Grand Boulevard, across from Crown Center. The indoor, interactive attraction will be a place where children ages 2 to 12 can participate in two-hour Lego building sessions and workshops designed by the winner of Sunday’s master brick building contest.

The two days of constructing detailed Lego models was “tough” competition, said Jeremiah Boehr of Kansas City.

Each member of the first group of builders, ranging in age from 18 to 57, was given 30 minutes to construct an animal. Judges, including Walsh and 13-year-old Remi Huber, the only child judge, eliminated 131 of them, whittling the pack down to 40. In the next 30-minute round, competitors had to construct their own design of something that represented Kansas City or the Midwest.

Then there were 12 — all of them from Missouri or Kansas.

As hundreds of people crowded around the building tables on the first floor of Crown Center to watch the hourlong finale, each builder set out to create a model that represented themselves.

They would be judged on creativity, building ability and how well they interacted with the crowd and the many children who watched with their noses pressed against the velvet rope and Plexiglas surrounding the construction site.

As the last few minutes ticked away, a group of family, friends and newfound fans of Boehr cheered him on and held up signs of encouragement. One said “Build it King Dude.”

Boehr, an art and yearbook teacher and avid reader who portrays a king each year at the Renaissance Festival, erected an open book with a sword shooting from the middle. Blue music notes also appeared to dance from the book, along with a framed apple. He finished his model with minutes to spare.

At the other end of the table, John Caton from Blue Springs was feverishly building a big dump truck with a giant black shovel on its front.

In the end, Boehr walked away with the full-time position at the upcoming attraction, a job he started training for 29 years ago when he first got his hands on Lego’s line for preschoolers.

“My mom informed me that my first toy was a Duplo rattle,” Boehr said, “so I’ve been playing with Legos since I was born.”

Related stories from Kansas City Star