Worlds at their fingertips, young architects get busy at the Spokane County Interstate Fair

Left to right: Anastasia Pillow, 14, Dahlia Giles, 11, and Staci Pillow 14, all with NatureÕs Wonders 4-H Club, create with Legos during the 4-H Lego contest held Sunday at the Spokane County Interstate Fair. Colin Mulvany/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

The group participating in the 4-H Lego contest Sunday afternoon at the Spokane County Interstate Fair may have been small, but they were enthusiastic.

Three girls plunged their hands into a bin of Lego parts, pulling pieces out and deciding what to make. The concepts changed a few times, but they kept working for their allotted two hours.

Anastasia Pillow and Staci Pillow, 14-year-old twin sisters, were there with their niece, 11-year-old Dahlia Gilen. Both older girls said they were there for their niece, but they seemed to be enjoying themselves as well. “(Dahlia) really likes it and we wanted to do it with her,” Anastasia Pillow said. “Legos are fun.”

The contest was one of several put on for 4-H members at the fair. Organizer and judge Janeen Graham said she was looking for creativity.

“Really, the contests are a way to come in and do something at the fair,” she said. “The goal is that they’re creative and complete.”

Other contests scheduled during the fair include a marshmallow catapult contest, a knitting contest and a fair photoshoot that sends contestants around the grounds to take pictures of 29 different things, including a sunflower, a tractor and pig racing.

4-H members sign up in advance for the contests, which are held in the 4-H building tucked behind the Ferris wheel. There are occasional contests for non-4-H children as well.

Graham said that Legos are usually a hit. “Girls, boys, adults, children – they all want to play with Legos,” she said.

She likes it when kids make something creative without using a kit. “I’m always looking for the things that are the most outside the box with Legos,” she said.

Gilen first declared she was making a top-secret spaceship, then changed her mind after a few minutes. “You know what, I’m not building a spaceship,” she said. “It’s just too much.”

She quickly shifted from a house, to a café, to a medieval bar. She said she loves to play with Legos at home. “I have three laundry tubs full,” she said. “I like to role-play with them. I like to play with them.”

Anastasia Pillow said she wasn’t sure what she was building even as she snapped pieces together. “A treehouse, I guess,” she said. “A boathouse? I don’t know.”

Meanwhile her sister Staci was trying to recreate a scene from Stranger Things, one of her favorite shows, but was puzzling over how to recreate the upside-down world depicted in the Netflix show.

Graham sat nearby, spinning yarn while the girls chatted and built, occasionally arguing over who got certain prized pieces. She said having kids create things on the spot gives them real-life experience that can be helpful later on.

“It’s an educational tool as well,” she said. “They just have to design.”