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updated: 4/27/2011 12:24 PM

Lego train show comes to Geneva

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  • Luke Schafer, 7, of Batavia watches an operating Lego train go by at a previous year's Lego event at the Geneva History Center. This year's Lego Train Club event takes place Saturday and Sunday.

    Luke Schafer, 7, of Batavia watches an operating Lego train go by at a previous year's Lego event at the Geneva History Center. This year's Lego Train Club event takes place Saturday and Sunday.
    LAURA STOECKER/Daily Herald 2009

  • Jill Nippert's third-graders from Heartland Elementary School built this Lego replica of the Kane County Courthouse. It will be on display at the Geneva History Center.

    Jill Nippert's third-graders from Heartland Elementary School built this Lego replica of the Kane County Courthouse. It will be on display at the Geneva History Center.
    Photo courtesy of Jill Nippert

 
By Dave Heun
Daily Herald correspondent

The historic Kane County Courthouse on Geneva's Third Street is missing its fourth floor, but it will surely stand out as a main feature in a fantasy world created by thousands of Lego building blocks.

The Geneva History Center is hosting that land of wonderment this weekend with its fifth annual Northern Illinois Lego Train Club event, featuring a model of the Geneva courthouse built by a third-grade class at Heartland Elementary School.

"We didn't have enough red Legos to finish one story of the building, so it's a three-story courthouse," said teacher Jill Nippert, whose class took on the courthouse model project in a Lego Landmark Education competition for the Midwest in which it eventually placed fourth last October.

"We saw that Lego was having this competition for grades one through four, and we made a class project out of it because you had to submit an essay about a landmark and its importance in your community," Nippert said. "The class wrote about the courthouse, and the judges picked 20 essays to advance, and we were one chosen to build something."

Nippert said her students brainstormed about various Geneva landmarks for the project -- the courthouse, Delnor Hospital, Little Traveler and the Fabyan Villa.

"As the students researched it, they decided that the courthouse had such an important role in community history and also felt it was a place where people met for Swedish Days or the Christmas Walk," Nippert added.

With the lofty finish in the Lego competition, the model of the courthouse has garnered extra attention. Sixteenth Judicial Circuit Chief Judge Keith Brown has asked for it to be on display at the Peck Road courthouse, and the history center asked for it to add a definite Geneva touch to the train club display this weekend.

History center educator Margaret Selakovich said the model was perfect for this year's theme at the train cub event, which is a fundraiser for the history center.

"The first Lego show was hosted by the history center in 2007 and was held in conjunction with the train exhibition 'Home on the 5:05,'" Selakovich said. "Each year we have chosen a different theme, and this year we are showcasing the courthouse built by third-graders from Heartland."

Nippert said the courthouse model, which is 7 inches deep by 15 inches wide and 9 inches tall, represents a labor of love for the students, mainly because "they worked on it during their recess times and after school."

The Northern Illinois Lego Train Club is comprised of adults whose hobby is the building of various Lego models, of which a running Lego train is central to the display.

It is not uncommon for a train club display to illustrate a small community like Geneva, or a major city, something in outer space, or even specific themes like "Star Wars" or "Harry Potter."

The club has been displaying its models at various events for the past 10 years. Its biggest show to date was in 2003 at the railroad museum in Union, Ill., where more than 48,000 visitors viewed the Lego displays, featuring a Thomas the Train theme.

The train club show hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m to 5 p.m. Sunday, April 30-May 1, at the history center, 113 S. Third St. Admission is $5 or $3 for Geneva History Center members and children.

More information is available by calling the Geneva History Center at (630) 232-4951.

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