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At Art-a-Whirl weekend, catch this 100,000-piece K'nex ball machine

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It uses 101,791 pieces, took six months to build, takes up 3,400 square feet of space, and is among the hundreds of showcases at this year's Art-a-Whirl in Northeast Minneapolis.

The brainchild of local artist Austin Granger and housed at Brickmania Toyworks at 1620 Central Ave., it is being claimed as a record-breaking ball machine made from the construction toy K'nex, sending balls on two 500-foot-long circuits through loops, lifts and drops.

According to Granger's YouTube page, the machine is still under construction and is expected to be completed later this summer, but is already 85 feet long, 40 feet wide and 13 feet high.

And don't despair if you don't get to Brickmania this weekend, with Granger saying on Reddit: "The machine will be on display for quite a long time, we are hoping. At least through the end of this year."

Visitors will get their first chance to take a look at the exhibition space – which also features a 25-feet-long Lego model of the USS Missouri – when Art-a-Whirl starts at 5 p.m. Friday.

Thousands expected for Art-a-Whirl

Northeast Minneapolis will be buzzing with activity throughout the weekend as more than 50 studios, art galleries, homes, stores, restaurants and other businesses open their doors and exhibit the work of more than 600 local artists.

The annual art crawl started 20 years ago and attracts thousands of people to the northeast of the city for the "largest open studio tour in the country," according to its website.

It's not just about the art either, with the area turning into one giant party zone, as bars and restaurants put on live music and host block parties complete with craft beer and food trucks.

Vita.mn has put together this guide on where to head for the best party locations this weekend. The Star Tribune meanwhile has a live music crib sheet.

You can plan your route by downloading and printing a copy of the Art-a-Whirl map here. The website also has information on transportation options for the weekend.

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