“Festival of the Gnomes” at Bicentennial Park
Welcome the holiday with the 42nd Festival of the Gnomes on Saturday, December 1 and Sunday, December 2 at 2:00 pm at Billie Limacher Bicentennial Park Theatre (201 W Jefferson Street. Tickets for the live, indoor theatre production are still just $5 for all ages. A family tradition across generations, gnome folklore comes to life on stage and the lobby fills with holiday cheer. Come join the fun – meet the gnomes and be one for a day!
The 90-minute live show follows the wee people of European folklore as they do good works for man and nature while outsmarting the nasty trolls, especially the Snotgurgle. The show itself is a tradition, but kept fresh as roles have changed and spread among the large cast of all ages. Co-directors are Jan Novotny, Lori Carmine and Rodger (Reg) McReynolds.
Through stories woven together, audience members will meet the: gnome from Nome, Alaska; naughty gnome Kostja; Tinker gnome frustrated with his inventions; weary but thankful human couple (played by real-life couple Tom and Jan Novotny), who are visited by a mysterious gnome; and garden gnome who brings good fortune to people. In “Wartje”, a gnome father tells his little gnomes about the legendary, clever gnome Wartje who outsmarts the evil trolls led by the Snotgurgle, which will be played by Kevin Healy and Teddy Lucas.
In this adventure, audience members meet the gnome’s worried wife, wise animals and even a lovable, talking rat (played by longtime-gnome Cheryl Foster). With many adventures, the no-intermission goes quickly as audience members travel the land of gnomes. This original show, created by Bicentennial Park in its early years, continues today to be for families of all faiths. The story lines about sharing, good will towards each other and caring for the animals help spread the meaning of this holiday season. After the show, children are invited onto the stage to meet the gnomes in person and draw their own gnome to take home.
Before and after the show, audience members can enjoy decorated lobby and visit the Gnome Gift Shop, where one can find many unique “gnomemade” treasures, starting at a wee price of 50¢. Audience members can buy their own gnome cap here for $3.00 their first year. Those returning to the show can have a free tassel sewn on their cap by the gnome ladies gathered around the lobby fireplace. Many caps are loaded with tassels, with a growing number sparkling with one of the special tassels.
Tassels on a gnome caps are how people mark the number of years they’ve been coming to festival. Special tassels are given for one’s 10th, 20th, 30th and 40th year. For instance, the first 10 years one attends the show, "a dehydrated star and moon beam" tassel is sewn onto their gnome cap. This tradition was begun by Billie Limacher, known as “Grandma Gnome” to many. She sends her love to everyone coming to the festival.
Tassels are also sewn onto the little gnome caps worn by the many gnome dolls returning to the show with their owners. The one-of-a-kind gnome dolls are another unique tradition of The Festival of the Gnomes, as this is the only place and time one has a chance to get one. The soft-sculpture boy and girl gnome dolls are detailed creations of Sally Susner. She makes a boy and girl each year, as gnomes are known to only give birth to twins. From selecting fabrics for their outfits to hand-stitching the facial features, the dedicated volunteer brings the 24" dolls to life over many months, each one slightly different than the next. After signing and dating each doll on their bottom, Sally presents the dolls to be raffled off at the fest. The two winners are drawn after Sunday’s show, and need not be present.