Ten years later, a new (smaller) version emerges in its shadow

Robert Behre/Staff Hundreds braved the July heat Saturday to celebrate the 10th anniversary of South Carolina’s largest bridge and one of the Lowcountry’s most popular landmarks.

MOUNT PLEASANT — Sam Owens wasn’t born when the original Arthur Ravenel Jr. bridge opened a decade ago, but he and his brother Jake, 12, made a point Saturday not to miss the Lego version.

They joined several hundred others who braved the July heat to celebrate the 10th anniversary of South Carolina’s largest bridge and one of the Lowcountry’s most popular landmarks.

While the party at Patriots Point featured live music, food, several venders and Lego speed build competitions by the American College of the Building Arts, the star attraction was found inside the center tent.

That’s where dozens of youths and grown-ups bustled around a set of tables and erected a 5-foot-tall, 25-foot-long model of the cable-stayed bridge. Occasionally, they looked up and glimpsed the real thing in the distance.

The twin diamond-shaped towers were among the first parts completed, and Sam, 8, and Jake eventually got a chance to build a section of road bed that will hang from them by white brick cables.

Those sections will be suspended as the public build continues Sunday afternoon, and organizers anticipate a 4 p.m. finish time.

The bridge model is being built from almost 50,000 Lego pieces, the smallest of which is only 8 millimeters by 8 millimeters, while the largest is a gray plate about 5 inches by 5 inches.

Rhulaunda Donald of Summerville walked around the table collecting pieces for her 5-year-old son, Rhys, to assemble. “You made mommy fetch,” she joked to her son. Rhys’ 4-month-old sister, Rhyli, looked on from her stroller.

“I was scared at first because he (Rhys) usually has all the Legos spread out all throughout the house,” Donald said, “but as things went along, things got smoother. I think Mom had more fun than she expected.”

The public build is being organized by Ed Diment and Kevin Cooper of Bright-Bricks, a professional Lego-building company in the United Kingdom,

Cooper said the day began with about 16 main volunteers who were given the chance to build two sections of roadbed each. Some had to leave before they finished both sections, other onlookers were happy to step up and pitch in.

One of the most dedicated builders was Zach Smith, a rising ninth grader who lives in Mount Pleasant.

Back home, Smith said he is working on a replica of the Malibu mansion featured in the movie “Ironman 3,” a model that covers six square yards and stands two feet high and even includes caves.

“I just love Legos,” he said. “I want to try to do at least five (road sections), so I’m just building as fast as I can without making mistakes.”

Charles Weeks of James Island brought his sons Sammy, 5, and Andrew, 13, who already built a much smaller Lego model of the bridge and who once saw a very large Lego model while on a cruise. As he eyed the Ravenel model, Andrew said, “This is going to be larger than the one I saw on the cruise ship.”

Those who want to see the completed version will have to return Sunday, when the event continues from noon to 5 p.m.

As with the construction of the real Ravenel bridge a decade ago, one of the most dramatic parts will be connecting the two roadbed sections hung from the different towers. Cooper and Diment have talked about this final challenge, but Cooper said they still don’t have an exact plan.

“We’ll worry about that when we get to it,” he said. “You can plan until you’re blue in the face. Challenges crop up all the time. That’s the nature of the job.

“If everything was smooth sailing, it would be boring.”

Reach Robert Behre at (843) 937-5771.