Lego catching on in the community

Sidney using the popular building blocks to attract people to the community on B.C.’s Family Day

Sidney Museum executive director Peter Garnham poses with a few of the Lego creations on display now until the end of March. This is the eighth annual Lego exhibit at the museum

What started as a few gifts over birthdays and at Christmas has turned into a family tradition for Peter Garnham.

When his two sons Jason and David were young, they were given Lego sets as gifts. They and their dad would then sit down and build them — and build a bonding experience that would translate into a hobby that, so far, has for all three lasted a lifetime.

Now the executive director of the Sidney Museum, Garnham found a novel use for his family’s growing collection of Lego models. It was eight years ago when a museum display could not be arranged for the slower months of winter. Garnham said he didn’t think it was fair to bring in a group to exhibit during a time when fewer people came through the museum doors.

So, he turned to his own collection and filled the display cabinets with Lego models, large and small, built by himself over the years, or by his children.

Almost immediately, the exhibit was a hit.

In 2011 alone, 11,000 people visited the museum during the three-month exhibit (January to March). Last year was a little slower, he said, but so far this month, attendance is on par or surpassing that from two years ago. Over the eight years of the exhibit, Garnham said more than 60,000 people have come to see the colourful building blocks.

On until March 31, the museum’s Lego exhibit features 300-plus models of varying shapes and themes. Most models belong to the Garnham boys and a few come out of the Victoria Lego Users Group, which makes their models from scratch, not necessarily from the pre-packaged box sets.

“It all started as a family Christmas gift,” Garnham said. “We started building them when the kids were young and we’re still building them today.”

Garnham himself received a Sopwith Camel (1900s-era biplane) for his birthday in October. That model is on display with other Lego aircraft. His sons, now in their 30s, still build models and they look far and wide for some very unique creations.

They own a large Taj Mahal model, ordered directly from the Lego company.

A Tower Bridge model sits nearby and not far from a display case containing a large Death Star and Millenium Falcon — two models from the always popular Star Wars series.

Garnham said most children love the Star Wars models, whch can range from all types of ships from the science fiction movies series, to figures like robot R2D2 and massive Death Star Destroyers.

Some of the sets everyone will remember playing with, others are quite rare. Garnham said he found a small tractor model in Germany — testament to the lengths a person will go to further their hobby.

Garnham is a fan of the aircraft sets, as well as the Technics line of Lego products that have models with moving parts and gears.

He doesn’t mind the time it takes to build models with 1,000 to 2,000 parts — up to 35 hours for some of the larger sets. It’s all part of the fun.

A bulldozer on display, one with moving parts and can be run by remote control, has between 1,800 and 2,000 parts and took Garnham between seven and eight hours to build. He said the actual building doesn’t take all that long — even if you’re a novice — it’s the organizing and finding of all of the building blocks, as they arrive all in one package. Picking through those parts to find the right ones at the right moment can be the most frustrating part, he said.

He’s glad to see more of the community getting into the Lego theme this year.

On Monday, Feb. 11 — B.C. Family Day — the Sidney Pier Hotel hosts a Sidney Merchants Co-Op event, featuring pro builder Robin Sather in action and a Lego treasure hunt. That hunt is spearheaded by Buddies Toys and will see models in a variety of local shops.

“We are trying to demonstrate to merchants here that the event does attract a lot of people to Sidney,” said Garnham. “Therefore, it translates into extra business in local stores.”

At the Mary Winspear Centre, Garnham said organizers of their annual SidneyLand event for the family will include a Lego building area.

That events also features bouncy castles, games for kids and costumed creatures that are always popular. For details on that event, visit

To learn more about the Sidney Museum’s eighth annual Lego exhibit, visit or drop in at 2423 Beacon Ave.