Lego Train Show at Cantigny Park (2019)

Just what type of creations will be part of this weekend’s Lego Train Show at Cantigny Park in Wheaton is a secret, held tightly under wraps.

“People kind of bring out the best of the best,” said Jamie LeBlanc, president of the Northern Illinois Lego Train Club, referring to club members’ efforts. “Everybody keeps what they’re building close to the vest.”

Shows over the past 18 years have seen the unveiling of intricate scenes, tiny villages, characters from Disney favorites and the Star Wars stable, all with Lego trains running through them, along with iconic buildings such as the Chicago skyscraper formerly known as the Sears Tower, which LeBlanc confirms will be back this year, built from some 15,000 plastic bricks.

“We’re taking it the nth degree,” LeBlanc said. “It really kind of blows people’s minds. There’s a lot that’s new. There will be a good mix of new and classic Cantigny train show creations.”

This year, the show will be on display inside the visitors center and in the McCormick House’s Freedom Hall.

“The show has grown so much that we just kept expanding the space,” said Jeff Reiter, senior communications manager with Cantigny. “We have upward of 5,000 people per day at the show.”

“The visitors center is where the main action is,” LeBlanc said. There, visitors will find rooms full of displays and vendors selling Lego products.

He said the McCormick mansion, open for touring, will host an exhibit of about 14 Lego mosaics.

LeBlanc said a trip to the show has become a holiday tradition for generations of visitors.

“There are a lot of people who come up to me and say, ‘This is the way we start our Christmas, this is the way we start our holiday tradition,'” LeBlanc said. “We all have these things from our youth growing up.”

LeBlanc said he has been fascinated by Legos and trains since he was a child.

“Lego has always been one of these things that spurs on imagination. The more you played with Lego the better you got at it,” he said. “With Lego, as far as your imagination goes, you could take it. If you had a brick, you could make it.”

LeBlanc said the Northern Illinois Lego Train Club has about 24 members who will be bringing large, elaborate layouts to the show.

“The more you look, the more you see,” he said.

Adults, too, find interesting detail, including little sight gags.

“We try to make sure we entertain everybody,” he said.

A contest between Lego club builders will be introduced this year and give visitors the opportunity to vote for their favorites, a challenge that Reiter said will likely up the ante on creativity.

“These guys are competitive. They definitely try to outdo each other year to year,” Reiter said.

LeBlanc said visitors who cast votes will be entered into a raffle drawing for a $50 gift certificate to a Lego store. The club member who builds the winning entry will be given a Lego building set, he said.

Reiter said Bertie’s Bistro in the visitors center will be open, offering food and beverages during the show. There is no admission charge and the $5 parking fee will be waived for visitors who contribute an unwrapped children’s gift for the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots campaign.

To accommodate the expected crowds, Reiter said the show is staying open two hours later on Saturday.

From noon to 3 p.m. Sunday, the park will present an engineering-themed drop-in program in the McCormick House that will include the chance to make Lego creations.

LeBlanc said the club presents Lego train shows at other locations throughout the year and always looks forward to the Cantigny exhibit.

“It’s a beautiful location, regardless of whether you’re taking in the sights or taking in the Lego train show,” LeBlanc said. “It’s kind of magical.”

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Lego Train Show

When: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 14, and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 15

Where: Cantigny Park, 1S151 Winfield Road, Wheaton