By Josh Moniz
NEW ULM - It's been a long and mostly mysterious journey, but one of the Bavarian Blast festival's large wooden gnome cutouts made it back home this year just in time for the event.
Staff photo by Josh Moniz
Bavarian Blast board member Amy Furth (left) and her husband Tom (right) stand next to an old gnome cutout from the Heritagefest era that returned through a bizarre series of events after being stolen four years ago.
While the history of the red-hat wearing, smiling display gnome is not entirely known, the cutout has been around from at least as far back as Heritagefest events that ended nearly a decade ago. It is one of nine New Ulm cutouts frequently displayed at German heritage festivals. The cutouts range from other gnomes to goose cutouts representing New Ulm's Goosetown to cutouts representing Hermann's wife.
and the return
Four years ago, during the special performance by the "Little River Band" on the Thursday before the main Bavarian Blast event, the gnome was snatched from its hanging position at the performance tent by thieves and carried away without leaving any traces. Bavarian Blast board member Amy Furth, who has been hunting for this gnome for years, said she found it funny that the thieves were able to somehow sneak it past the event security, given that it's 7 feet tall, awkward to carry and brightly colored.
"I just don't know why anybody would even want to take it," said Furth.
She said that she scoured New Ulm and the surrounding area for months after learning the cutout had been stolen. She said she heard occasional rumors, but never found any concrete evidence of its location or who had taken it.
Flash-foward to a few months earlier this year: Furth was traveling along North Garden Street when the corner of her eye barely caught a flash of red at the top of the hill behind Garden Terrace Apartments.
"I thought 'Holy cow! I bet that's my gnome,'" said Furth.
She said that after stopping and observing the faint red color further, she realized her observation was more than a joking thought. With the assistance of her husband Tom, who braved a very steep incline and thick underbrush, they discovered their missing gnome. Tom said that he was surprised it had been seen all the way on the street, because it was lying down at an angle. The body was obscured and only the small tip of the red hat could be seen.
Miraculously, the gnome cutout was entirely unharmed, though a bit muddy. There were no indicators at the discovery site of who had taken it, nor was it near anything of note. However, there is a possibility it may have been tossed from the top of the hill and landed in just the right spot for Amy to see it.
The gnome is now enjoying a prominent display in the Kinderfest children's tent area for the duration of Bavarian Blast. It will likely go back into storage with the other cutouts after the festival ends. Amy said that after the gnome's crazy journey, Bavarian Blast organizers will be making sure to keep a close eye on it to keep it from slipping away again.
Josh Moniz can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.