Earl Horlyk Sioux City Journal (Photos by John J Sagert of the Sioux City Journal)
SOUTH SIOUX CITY | During the winter months when it’s too cold to be out on the golf course, Pat Amundson, unit director of the Boys Club of Sioux City, likes to occupy his time with colorful bricks.
“There’s nothing more satisfying than playing with Legos,” he said.
Between Nov. 1 and March 1, when Mother Nature shuts down the links, the Vermillion, S.D. resident can be found indoors constructing impressive structures.
To be fair, Amundson doesn’t merely play with Legos. Instead, he uses the colorful bricks to build miniature versions of Victorian-era houses, historic buildings, even a replica of Sioux City’s 1889 Corn Palace.
While he uses as much detail as he can, he recreates the structures with plenty of artistic license.
A Lego Luke Skywalker can be seen loitering by a church, and Lego Three Amigos substitute for firefighters in front of a firehouse.
“It’s tough finding certain types of Lego figures,” Amundson said. “I think I have Indiana Jones and Harry Potter together on a riverboat.”
Siouxlanders will be able to check out his handiwork for themselves this month. More than 30 of his Lego creations will be on display this month at the South Sioux City Public Library, 2121 Dakota Ave.
In addition, Amundson will conduct an Imagination Lego workshop at 1 p.m. Saturday and Feb. 22 at South Sioux City’s library. Immediately following the Feb. 22 program, children ages 6 and up will have the opportunity to compete for prizes during a Lego competition.
This is a lot of Lego activity for a guy who insists he has no artistic talent whatsoever.
“Man, I can’t even draw stick figures,” Amundson said, with a laugh.
Instead, he found artistic expression in tubs of interlocking bricks.
“I played with Legos from the time I was a kid and continued all the way up to high school,” Amundson said. “I gave it up entirely when I left home for college.”
It wasn’t until he and his wife Jill started raising a family that Amundson was reunited with his favorite childhood toys.
“When they were younger, I’d walk into a toy store and buy my daughters Megan (a 2012 University of South Dakota graduate) and Morgan (a Vermillion High School student) plastic containers of Legos,” he said. “But they were really meant for me.”
Yet Amundson said it was the memories of his grandmother that inspired him to reconstruct architecture from the past.
“My grandmother had a beautiful Victorian house in Emmons, Minn.,” he said. “About 15 years ago, I used photographs to recreate her home in Legos.”
That was just the beginning.
Since then, Amundson has built Lego battleships, racetracks and several Historic Fourth Street buildings that might be familiar to longtime Sioux Cityans.
“This is the building that’s now home to Tom Foolery’s Pub & Grill and here’s where the Heidman Law Firm is now located,” he said, pointing to some of his creations.
Amundson works with the Sioux City Public Museum Research Center’s Tom Munson, who supplies him with archival photos of downtown buildings.
Despite the ribbing he gets from golf buddies about playing with toys, Amundson said Legos provide a welcome respite after a long day at work overseeing the general day-to-day operations of the Boys Club.
“This is fun for me,” he said. “I can come home from work and just relax with my Lego.”
Even though his favorite childhood toy is a hit on the big screen, Amundson’s not sure if he’ll go see “The Lego Movie.”
“I don’t know if I’d be able to enjoy it,” he said. “I’d be too interested in seeing how (the filmmakers) construct certain things.”
Still, Amundson is happy that his favorite colorful bricks are making a comeback.
“It’s amazing what you make using your imagination and a whole lot of Legos.”
Kids had the chance to create their own race car’s and see how far they would go.
“It’s rewarding to see them smile and talk and pick through the pieces of Legos to try to design a special car. And, I think it creates their imagination, it sparks their imagination to dream and make it a reality by using legos,” Amundson said.
Many of Amundson’s own Lego buildings are on display at the library this month.
He said they’re there to promote a Lego building competition that will be held February 22 at the library. Amundson will hold a class that same day at 1:00p.m., and the contest will follow at 2:30p.m.