Gnome Park is located at the Dawson Aquatic Center (a swimming pool park) on Highway 212 in Dawson, Minnesota, a Midwest community (aka “Gnometown”) that is proud of its Scandinavian heritage.
The City of Dawson is known as Gnometown because of the many gnomes found in the area, including a colony of gnomes in the park, a collection of hand-carved gnomes housed in the local library and random gnomes displayed on lawns at homes throughout the town.
Beginning in 1988, the annual Riverfest celebration honored a local citizen for exemplary work in the community. Those chosen have their likeness carved by a local artist who turns them into 3-foot tall gnome statue to be placed in the park for all to see.
Riverfest is held the last weekend in June, during which time a new gnome is unveiled. The gnomes are best viewed by the “Welcome to Dawson” sign on the way into town from the east on HWY 212.
At the entrance to the roadside park, a kiosk contains a map of the park, a story of how Dawson came to be a city of gnomes and information about each individual gnome on display.
According to the legend of Gnometown (as first told by Alta Roesch), the Little People knew no one believed in them anymore. Human adults were far too busy and human children only watched television. They had to decide if they should band together and move across the sea, or if they should simply “be no more. And so Old Torvig, a member of the Council of Little People council made this pronouncement to his fellow woodland creatures:
“Whether Leprechaun or Kobold, Pixie or Nixes, we will now be called Gnomes. We will cross the sea to a place called Minnesota. There we will go to a peaceful city called Dawson. This place has kindly people who love laughter. The fields are all colors of green in the spring and the plowed ground looks like rich chocolate. They have trees to shade you – or to live in – birds sing and there is a river gently running through the town where fish can be seen jumping and splashing. Squirrels scamper to pick up the soybeans spilled from trucks and wagons. There is not one, but three bridges, and one has no noisy automobiles that go over it. It is for walking over or maybe riding a bicycle. The people love music and fiddles play often. The children swing and play ball in the parks. A factory makes cheese of all kinds and a highway goes east to west on the north side of town. The Indians once walked the land, their arrowheads have been found in pastures. People from the country and town work together to make good things happen. You can hear the church bells ring and the chimes play, and the flags dance in the breeze. For us it will be a good place.”
“When we get there we will show them we are neat, helpful, and will bring a smile to their faces. To those who have said in years past that we are mischievous, dangerous and have no heart, we will show we have a heart. We will wear it on our sleeves for all to see. And Dawson will be Gnometown, MN.”
City of Dawson
Dawson, MN 56232