Nutcracker collection began with ballet

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By Brian Beckley-The Courier-Herald

When he was 2 or 3 years old, Jonrex Nelson's parents took him to see The Nutcracker ballet and the young man was fascinated with the traditional soldier version of the play's namesake.

“We went to the Nutcracker one year and he begged for one of their horribly expensive ones,” mother Jamie Nelson remembers.

Every year after that, more and more nutcrackers arrived at the Nelson home.

“It started becoming the Christmas gift to give me,” Jonrex, or Rex, 15, said with a shrug and a slight smile.

It got to the point where he was getting up to 15 each year. The collection has now grown to a small army of nearly 200 of the Christmas-themed figures - too many, in fact, for all of them to displayed during the holidays.

He would also get nutcrackers at other points in the year; pumpkins at Halloween, or a rabbit at Easter.

“Now he's got plenty,” grandmother Patricia Sullivan said.

A few years ago, it began to take days to get out and set up the collection of nutcrackers, so the family decided to only display about 50 each year.

“We had them all out until it just got out of control,” Jamie said.

As a group, the nutcrackers fill a large dining room table, the length of a China cabinet and several shelves. Three large nutcrackers, each standing several feet high, also guard the sliding glass door of the family's Lake Tapps home.

When asked which are his favorites, Rex scans the ranks of his collection before reaching for some of the more non-traditional nutcrackers, like the one in the baseball uniform, or the pirate.

There is also a nutcracker on a train that Rex “found pretty interesting” and considers a favorite.

Hidden in the rows and rows of traditional red-suited, black-hatted nutcrackers are golfers, reindeer, snowmen, firemen, an angel, a cook, a sailor and a small “Nutcrackers of the world” collection.

There are also a few female nutcrackers, a relative rarity in the world of nutcrackers.

Each year, the family would head out looking for new Nutcrackers, often finding that stores that had great selections one year would be lacking the next.

“It was really fun at Christmas because we'd go around and look for nutcrackers,” Jamie said.

Now as he is getting older, Rex is concentrating more on school and sports. He is a freshman at Bishop Lynch High School in Seattle where he plays baseball and basketball.

But he still enjoys looking over the collection and doesn't expect to give it up or sell it for a profit.

“They're just interesting,” he said. “They're like a little sculpture.”

Brian Beckley can be reached at bbeckley@courierherald .com.

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