How Australia’s “Gnomesville” Became an International Sensation

Not many people have heard of Wellington Mill or Dardanup, tiny towns south of Perth on the great island continent of Australia. That was, anyway, until a group of gnomes decided to take up residence here and capture the imagination of people all over the world!

It’s a mystery how Gnomesville originally began. Some rumors say that a gnome-repairwoman started the trend to decorate a section of road, while others believe that a gnome was left behind to “stand guard” at a dangerous traffic intersection. Originally seen as a form of protest art, it’s much more of a tourist attraction today. There have been over 7,000 gnomes that call Gnomesville home, and this population is growing by the day.

The gnomes’ population grew so much that they threatened to distract drivers passing by. But they were promptly moved back a bit to habitats for everyone’s safety. Just like any population center, there are good gnomes and bad gnomes here. Some play professional football, others are partying, some are flying planes, and a few are being punished in a fenced-in detention center.

It’s a surreal and blissful spectacle full of bad puns (E.T. phone gnome!), political advocacy, and pure silliness. Gnomesville has been around since the 1990s and has suffered from floods, storms, and vandalism. But the resilient gnomes have persevered, and new ones are being added to the collection by local and international visitors. Meanwhile, local news stations and bloggers from the region continue to cover the happenings at Gnomesville with a sense of wonder and childlike enthusiasm.

Gnomesville is located on the Eastern Junction Roundabout of Wellington Mill Road and Ferguson Road in Wellington Mill, Western Australia 6236. I have yet to travel to Australia and see Gnomesville for myself, but I hope to in the near future! In the meantime, you can keep up with what the red-hatted ones are doing by following their website and Facebook page.

If you’ve visited the gnomes of Gnomesville, please share your thoughts and photos with us!

The Strange Connection Between Opossums, Brazilian Folklore & Gnomes

Opossums, Brazilian folklore, and gnomes seem like three very different topics that should never be in the same sentence…let alone in a gnome newsletter. Right? Wrong! This gnome story takes us into the mysterious lands of the Amazon Rain Forest to make a scientific discovery of gnomish proportions.

A few months ago, a friend forwarded me a National Geographic article, titled “New Redheaded Opossum Named After Magical Gnome.” As a lover of both animals and gnomes, my interest was instantly piqued. A biologist in Brazil discovered a new species of opossum, but what makes this discovery so interesting is that the marsupial is named after a gnome.

The new opossum is called Monodelphis saci, and saci (pronounced sah-SEE) is a word that comes straight out of Brazilian folklore. Before this, I’ll admit that I didn’t know much about Brazilian folklore. But if gnomes were in it, I figured that I’d better broaden my horizons and learn something new!

Hunter-gatherer tribes roamed the lands of Brazil hundreds of years ago, passing folklore and tales down from one generation to the next. By way of colonization, these myths and legends changed shape and were influenced by African, Portuguese, Polish, and German settlers over time.

One such legends is about a Brazilian gnome known as a saci who wears a magical red cap. Saci Pererê is depicted as a gnome-like boy with one leg who is mischievous and even a bit of a con artist. In fact, his red hat helps him disappear and reappear whenever he likes! The legend says that your wish will be granted if you can grab the saci’s hat. But there’s a catch. The saci’s hat has a terrible smell that you may never be able to get off your hands!

All of this goes to show that gnomes don’t’ just exist in American, British, and German cultures…but diverse cultures from all around the world!

But back to that newly discovered opossum…

The Monodelphis saci species has a reddish head that resembles that hat that Saci Pererê wears in those epic Brazilian tales. Fortunately, the gnomish opossums are thriving in the wild and at no risk of extinction. Like all opossum species, they are nocturnal and able to adapt in a wide variety of conditions. Sounds a bit like our beloved gnomes, don’t you think?

I hope this story helps you remember how beautifully gnomes and animals live in harmony in our natural environment. What other animals remind you of gnomes?

A Gnome-Themed Campground in Pennsylvania Amish Country

We gnomes absolutely adore the camping lifestyle. From coast to coast and everywhere in between, we’ve stayed at lots of campgrounds, but perhaps none more special than one in the tiny unincorporated community of Narvon, Pennsylvania.

Lake in Wood Camping Resort is the one and only gnome-themed campground that I have ever encountered. It’s also a convenient place to stay if you want to see the Amish communities and local shops of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Philadelphia, Strasburg, and Hershey, Pennsylvania are easy day trips from here too.

This is a huge RV and cabin resort that’s packed with amenities including a Gnome Café that serves up burgers and fries, a 9-hole mini-golf course with gnomes scattered around the putting greens, and a gift shop with lots of gnomes for sale to decorate your campsite. One of my very favorite things about this campground was that many of the campers decorated their individual sites with friendly and festive gnome scenes. The Gnome Café was also a real treat with all of its plush gnomes waiting to meet you on the walls and along the floors.

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Other campground amenities include modern laundry facilities, a boat launch for taking paddle boats on the small lake, and an indoor/outdoor pool with spa. Events are scheduled throughout camping season with activities like chili cook-offs, laser tag, country music, and bingo. Oddly enough, there are even a few resident goats that live at the campground, which you can watch climb on their rock piles and platform behind a fence!

If “roughing it” isn’t really your thing, a fun way to experience this campground with all the comforts of home is to rent a cabin. There are lots of cute, themed cabins available, but my personal favorite was the Gnome Home, which is decorated with gnomes and sleeps up to two adults and four children. To treat your kids to something special, book the Gnome Playhouse and the staff will deliver it when you arrive! Campground rates vary depending on the season and what you stay in, and you can take a virtual tour on Lake in Wood’s website.

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But of course, as a campground connoisseur, no campground is perfect…not even ones inhabited by gnomes. The bathrooms were outdated and only moderately clean, golf carts zipping around make roads risky for pedestrians, and the RV sites were very close together. But if you’re as big of a gnome enthusiast as I am, these are all things that you’ll willingly endure to camp among the gnomes.

This all just goes to show that home isn’t just where you park it, home is where your gnome is!

XOXO,
Kamikaze

Spending a Day with Rich Humphreys of Gnome Countryside

One of our human companions named Alyssa has been so kind as to share a guest post with us about her tour of Gnome Countryside. But from a human perspective of course. Seems like a pretty rad place. Who else wants to check this out with us?!

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One of my favorite things about being part of a community of gnome enthusiasts is getting the opportunity to meet other collectors and swap stories. As a writer with an insatiable spirit of wanderlust, my travels have led me to many amazing people who inspire me to keep collecting and spreading the joy of gnomes.

This summer, I had the opportunity to meet Rich “The Gnomeman” Humphreys at the one and only Gnome Countryside, tucked away in the peaceful rolling hills of Kirkwood Pennsylvania. For 35 years, Rich has been entertaining and educating kids and adults in his “Gnomery” and enchanted forest.

Rich, a long-time diabetic who nearly lost his sight to diabetic retinopathy, created Gnome Countryside after teaching school in Alaska for 12 years. He renovated this beautiful property and interwove the stories of gnomes into his nature tours. Rich first became enchanted by gnomes on a trip to Denmark, and he even dresses like a gnome in a wonderfully eccentric fashion!

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I first learned about Rich’s mission and Gnome Countryside in 2014 under tragic circumstances. Local news sources reported that a fire devastated his 220-year-old log home, destroying his possessions, but never his spirit. He has since rebuilt his home, and it’s just as beautiful as ever.

My tour of Gnome Countryside began in the Gnomery, a cozy room filled with wonderful gnomes where Rich shared stories, environmental facts, and songs with his captive audience. Then we followed The Gnomeman through the wooded trails, using our five senses to appreciate the rugged beauty that surrounded us. Small gnomes and gnome homes could be found along the trails (if you looked closely), and they were surely very happy here. Other highlights of the visit included listening to the waterfall sounds of Gnome Gniagra, participating in a drum circle, and building gnome homes and rock towers in the woods.

Gnomes and nature go hand-in-hand, and this is a place to embrace that relationship and celebrate stewardship of the environment and a sense of community in the outdoors. Through Gnome Countryside, Rich empowers visitors to return home with a renewed love for the environment and a commitment to protect nature. Gnome Countryside celebrates the legends of gnomes, teaches us about gnomes and nature, brings your senses to life. With a creative sense of humor and a twinkle in his eye, Rich’s dedication to nature and all its creatures is contagious.

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You too can visit Gnome Countryside if you only travel to the heart of Pennsylvania Amish country! Rich is an incredibly friendly and kindhearted man who loves to chat, so give him a call at 717-786-4928. Gnome Countryside is a favorite among school group tours, but he also leads individual two-hour tours at a rate of $10 per person. Morning and afternoon tours are typically available Monday through Saturday from April through October, rain or shine.

 

***A version of this story will be published in the upcoming edition of the International Gnome Club Newsletter!***

The Antique Gnomes of Rock City – Chattanooga, Tennessee

*Disclaimer: This article was written by a non-gnome human, named Alyssa, who is obsessed with gnomes and travel. The opinions expressed here do not necessarily represent those of Drunk Gnomes, but they probably do anyway because they’re awesome.

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On a recent drive from Illinois to Georgia, I made a pit stop in Chattanooga, Tennessee and decided to check out the famous attraction advertised on all the highway billboards: Rock City. Much to my delight, the nature paths and caves here are filled with gnomes!

I knew I was in for something special when the road leading up to Rock City was called “Ochs Highway.” No joke. Clearly, this place was meant for me.

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History of the Rock City Gnomes

In the late 1920s, Garnet and Frieda Carter began developing a walkable garden on their private estate to share their love for the region’s rock formations and native plants with the public.

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The husband-wife team opened Rock City Gardens during the Great Depression and had over 800 barns painted to advertise and attract tourists to Chattanooga. They gave the attraction its name because the rocks on top of Lookout Mountain looked like city buildings and the natural pathways like streets.

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Frieda Carter loved European folklore and fairytales, and she was an avid gnome collector. So naturally, many of her gnomes made it into the local attraction.

Gnomes Along the Enchanted Trail

Your gnome journey begins at the new Gnome Valley installation, which is a growing collection of whimsical space at the beginning of the Enchanted Trail.

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As you walk along the beautiful and easily accessible trail, you’ll notice even more gnomes peeking behind rocks to greet you.

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Keep an eye out for little red hats as you navigate the trail to Lover’s Leap, the 180-foot suspension bridge, Mother Goose Village, and the summit where you can see seven states on a clear day.

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Another awesome part about Rock City is that the whole place is dog friendly!

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The Gnomes of Fairyland Caverns

But by far, the best place to see gnomes is inside Fairyland Caverns, as this is home to Frieda’s collection of antique, imported German gnomes.

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Inside this cave, gnomes are situated into scenes that are illuminated by black lights.

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You instantly feel a sense of magic as you pass by the Castle of the Gnomes, Carnival of the Gnomes, the Moonshine-Brewing Gnomes, and many other displays.

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Admittedly, some of the scenes were a bit on the creepy side. But isn’t that what fairy tales are really all about anyway?

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Antique Gnome Restoration

Since the Rock City gnomes date back to the 1920s and 1930s, many of them were in desperate need of repair. Rock City’s resident art specialist, Matt Dutton, created a “Gnome Infirmary” to restore the residents to their original splendor.

Matt consults old photos to keep the gnomes’ coloring consistent, painting and repairing them as needed. He uses urethane resin and a hardener to fills his handmade molds to restore each little one’s unique personality.

The Gnome Mascot & Gift Shops

A red-hatted, white-bearded gnome named Rocky is the mascot for Rock City, and you might meet him walking around in costume! Yet no roadside attraction would be complete without a gift shop, and the one at Rock City is stocked with lots of gnomes you can take home as souvenirs.

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My souvenir of choice? A purple t-shirt that reads, “I’m a rock climbing, trail trekkin’, gnome lovin’ nature kinda girl.” I couldn’t have come up with a more perfect motto for myself!

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*A version of this story is scheduled to be published in the next issue of the International Gnome Club newsletter!