Family’s Lego collection builds interest for Oakboro museum

On Christmas morning each year, Jonathan Waits’ Oakboro home is littered with all kinds of tiny multicolored bricks as he, his wife Lisa and their three kids — Noah, Josiah and Micah — get to work on their latest construction projects.

“On Christmas morning, there’s Legos being built all over the room,” he said.

And he would not have it any other way.

Throughout the years, the Waits family has constructed all kinds of creations, both as a family and individually, including a medieval blacksmith shop, a Star Wars TIE fighter, a flower bouquet, an old-school Nintendo Entertainment System and a map of the world, which comprised more than 11,000 pieces.

Waits grew up playing with action figures, but pivoted to Lego — which was cited a few years ago as the most influential toy of all time by historians and experts — once he became a father.

“When they were little, we started buying sets for them for birthdays and Christmas and it’s just taken off from there,” he said.

The family’s passion has recently gone public as more than 20 of their sets are part of a new exhibit at the Oakboro Regional Museum of History titled “Waits — Bricktastic Adventures.” The exhibit, which opened in early February, will run through the end of May.

Lego White House

Lego Robot

There will also be a Lego Day from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. March 25 at First Baptist Church of Oakboro, where Waits served as senior pastor, featuring competitions and popcorn and lemonade.

Waits said the idea came from the museum committee.

“They were thinking and talking about just different things they could put on display that would hopefully draw interest to the museum,” Waits said. “And at some point I had mentioned the models that I had built.”

Noah, 14, estimates he has the most Lego sets on display, including several space pieces such as the Saturn V rocket, the International Space Station and the Apollo 11 Lunar Lander. Building is a way for him to relax.

Constructing new Lego sets “takes my mind off all the other things that happened during the day so I can just come home and put stuff together,” he said.

With his family’s exhibit, Noah hopes the public appreciates the diversity of the sets — which includes everything from Star Wars pieces like the Millennium Falcon and a TIE fighter to miniature replicas of the White House and the Statue of Liberty, along with a viking ship and Hogwarts Castle from “Harry Potter.”

“Anybody can build Legos,” Noah added.

While assembling his pieces, Josiah, 12, likes to pretend he is in an office surrounded by every Lego set “just building whatever I can imagine and I am one of the best builders out there.”

Although Waits loves assembling his own sets, he also really enjoys watching his sons take ownership of their creations.

“I love getting to see them be imaginative with the sets and build and then play and have all kinds of adventures with them,” he said.

A Lego Millennium Falcon and a TIE fighter from the “Star Wars” films.

Lego viking ship

With so many young people fixated on screens, Lego allows them the chance to use their imagination to build whatever creations come to mind.

“Legos are a great way for kids to create and they’re learning,” said Angelina Smith, a fourth-grade teacher at Oakboro Choice STEM School who helped the family set up the exhibit.

Her class has been filming stop motion video clips based on Lego sets they have built.

“I want them to detach from electronics for a minute and remember that they can create and learn through Legos as well,” Smith said.

Waits said many people have already told him they have enjoyed his family’s Lego sets and he hopes more will check them out.

“Lego has come up with a lot of creative sets and we have had the opportunity to build several and seeing them on display is really cool,” he said.

As excited as Waits is about people taking a look at his family’s creations, he sees the display as a way of attracting more people to the museum, which is the main goal.

“If this will generate more and more traffic to that museum, that would be fantastic,” he said. “That’s really what it’s about — getting people more engaged with the history of Oakboro through the museum.”