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PHOTOS BY CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Stan Ritchie makes an adjustment to a building in Lego Town, the creation he carries to children's parties.
Stan Ritchie grew up playing with classic toys like Lincoln Logs and Tinker Toys. The one thing he never had was Legos, until he turned 50 and decided to make up for lost time.
Of course, this meant going overboard in creating his own Lego Town, a 30-foot wonderland of houses, parks, roads, waterways, buildings, boats, a football field and airport, "even dinosaurs and little green men from Mars," said Ritchie, who couldn't keep this fantasy land to himself.
He started carting it to birthday parties and special events in venues ranging from living rooms and garages to gymnasiums. It can be set up on tables or on bare floors, he said.
The space available at the party determines how much of the town can be built on location. Adult phobias may also determine what's there. "I have a sand area where (kids) can use dump trucks and cranes," said Ritchie, who also has a water area for boats and jet skis. Lego soccer and a drag race track with pull-back cars are also part of the action.
The town is designed for children ages 5 to 12, and part of the fun is a workshop that allows kids to put their imaginations to work in building their own structures.
"The bricks and elements are provided so children can build whatever they can imagine," said Ritchie, who's noticed the surge of pride when children see their creations come together.
He also recognizes some differences between the genders, and makes an effort to appeal to girl's tastes. "A lot of them like the horses and trees. The boys tend to go for the cars, spaceships and guns. But there are still some girls who want to build a car."
Its not how a child builds a toy, but how the toy can build a child.
Stan Ritchie, Lego enthusiast
RITCHIE'S introduction to Legos was at the Children's Museum in Los Angeles. "I was working as an intern. We had a display with wheels and different elements, but I always thought there could be more. So I'd take them home and experiment with them."
He's learned to believe in the Lego motto, "It's not how a child builds a toy, but how the toy can build a child."
After visiting several toy centers in Asia, he said, "I was disappointed with a lot of the toys. Many of the playthings were toys that lacked creativity. You just wind it up and it works all by itself.
"With Legos you can create a truck, break it apart and then change it into a house. The next day, it can be turned into something else.
"Today, lots of kids are watching TV and spending a lot of time indoors. They aren't playing or experimenting with toys. What you give your kids is really important," he said.
His parents didn't let him watch much TV, but skateboards, building blocks and trains ("My dad actually cut a hole through the wall so the train could go through") helped fuel his imagination and creativity. Taking care of the family pets - horses, chickens and ducks - taught him responsibility.
RITCHIE, WHO lived in the Marshall Islands and New Guinea for part of his life, observed, "I would see how kids that don't have any toys would create their own by using nuts, broken glass from the beach, rocks and things like that. I've always had an interest in children's toys."
He continues to visit theme parks, like Orlando's Imagination Center, to pick up new ideas for his own Lego world.
Ritchie, who performs at children's parties as Mr. Amazing, says Lego construction is not one of his primary hobbies. "It's not like fishing or something, but I do enjoy Legos because I see how inventive and dynamic they are, and I especially enjoy seeing how much the kids enjoy it."
Lego Town can be booked for parties by calling Stan Ritchie at 554-2779. The cost for rental is $200 for the first hour, $50 for each additional hour.
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