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A & E

41st Festival of the Gnomes frolics into Joliet December 2 and 3

The cast of Festival of Gnomes introduce themselves Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016 during the Festival of Gnomes play at Bicentennial Park in Joliet.
The cast of Festival of Gnomes introduce themselves Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016 during the Festival of Gnomes play at Bicentennial Park in Joliet.

JOLIET – The 41st Festival of the Gnomes frolics into town Dec. 2 and 3 at Billie Limacher Bicentennial Park Theatre, 201 W. Jefferson St., Joliet.

This family tradition features a 90-minute live, indoor show on Saturday (1 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.) and Sunday (1 p.m.). Doors open at noon Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are $5 all ages.

Journey with the all-age cast as they tell of the “wee” folk’s good works for man and nature, outsmart the Snotgurgle troll and find the true meaning of this giving season. Visit the gift shop filled with “gnomemade” treasures, some as little as 50¢ cents.

First year? Get your gnome cap here!

Returning? Get your free tassel sewn to your hat.

Enjoy the spirited live flute music filling the lobby where one can find refreshments. Reservations are recommended. Call 815-724-3761 or email

For more information, visit


 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 Jan Novotny and Lori Carmine, with the help of Assistant Directors Eric Moniger 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.

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. Raffle tickets are 50 cents each or 3 for $1. The two winners are drawn after Sunday’s show, and need not be present.

The lobby is also the place where one can visit the Gnome Cookie Factory and pick out their favorite $1 variety-cookie-plate and grab a hot coca or coffee. Beer and wine are now available, too. 

Above the happy chatter of the lobby crowd, live Christmas music fills the air. Flute instructor Cindy Butler, a festival attendee for years, volunteers with her students each year for the Saturday performances.

Parking is free and available in the lots north and south of Jefferson Street.

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