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Lego competition inspires future architects

In one, a Christmas tree of green bricks rises above tiny packages crafted from plastic blocks. In another, a Darth Vader minifigure helms Santa’s sleigh, with Stormtroopers playing reindeer.     Kids from three to 16 let their imaginations soar for Speight Studio Architects’ annual Severna Park Lego Open.     “We received high-quality entries including, for the first time, one that is motorized,” says Wayne Speight. “Another opens to reveal a multi-level vignette.”

Will our Bay Bridge ever fall?

“The Bay Bridge is safe until 2065.” That’s the best news Milt Chaffee, executive director of Maryland Transportation Authority, found in a brand-new study of how long we can count on the William Preston Lane Jr. Memorial Bridge to connect Maryland’s Western and Eastern shores.     There are, of course, conditions.

Turning other people’s trash into a holiday display

“You may not feel the Christmas spirit when you come in here,” says  Casey Dillard, “but you will have it when you leave.”     Dillard may have a future with the Island of Misfit Toys.     The Calvert County Solid Waste employee has given new life to Christmas castoffs — the wreaths we didn’t like, the lights that stopped working, artificial trees outmoded in this year’s decorating scheme.

Lothian home shines into space

Sometime in November, Carmella Hangsleben’s family starts thinking about lights. By Thanksgiving weekend, their Lothian home is probably bright enough to see from space.     Carmella, husband Alan and their son Eddy spend nearly a month stringing up 1,500 strands of Christmas lights. That’s 75,000 bulbs of glowing cheer.     “When we were growing up, we would always drive to Washington to see all the lights and the displays,” says Hangsleben. Now that display is as close as the front yard.

Fire engines lead seven convoys through Annapolis neighborhoods

“We’re going to need more bags!” said 14-year-old Zac Binnix as we pulled into Arundel on the Bay on this year’s Santa Run.     People had been friendly and collections good at each of our three stops since leaving Truxton Park an hour and a half earlier. But Arundel on the Bay was taking it to a new level. Cheering our arrival, some 120 neighbors had piled three picnic tables high with gifts as donations.

Trains live on in more than our memories and our hearts

Trains are just another form of transportation to some folks, no more interesting or glamorous than the bus that takes you from long-term parking to the airport terminal.     But if you’re one of the countless train lovers, like me, read on to discover three local ways to bring to life your train fantasies.

Have a toy ready to give when he visits your neighborhood

This Sunday, Santa chooses a shiny red fire truck over a red-nosed reindeer and sleigh. The reindeer are getting a break as Santa needs more horsepower this year to carry the load of presents from generous neighbors.     On the annual Annapolis Santa Run toy drive, Santa makes 57 stops, to collect rather than give — though candy canes reward givers. Later this month, the toys you donate are delivered to kids in need throughout Annapolis and Anne Arundel County.

Familiar buildings give a starting point

What will the new Annapolis Public Library look like? We’ve just come a step closer to the answer to the third big question about the surprisingly controversial future of the popular flagship of Anne Arundel County’s 15-library system.     The first big answer was that the new library will stand on the spot of its half-century-old predecessor at 1410 West Street.

Play Santa in ways that matter

Taking care of each other is one of the cornerstones of the Christmas spirit, for everyone deserves a gift from the heart — especially those for whom any gifts are hard to come by.     You can give in small ways, like dropping a donation into a Salvation Army red kettle. Or in large ways, like fully funding a family’s Christmas meal and wish list.

Local theaters serve a mix of seasonal cheer

The spirit of Christmas is a more complex concoction than a dash of ho-ho-ho and a splash of jinglebells. For this is the season of deliverance: hope is born, sorrow and loss salved, our better selves risen over our baser. Getting it right — mixing big dreams with dark regret, leavened by love and served in hope — is an annual job done for us by our local theater companies.