Dozens participate in gnome hunt

Published 12:33 pm Friday, August 8, 2008

Gold was found in Helena last weekend, but it’s not the kind you might expect.

The Golden Gnome Hunt, featuring a gold-painted garden gnome and the gold key that set him free from his bonds, was held Aug. 1.

The gnome, kept captive by padlocked chains, was kept in plain sight at Loading Dock South in Helena; participants actually had to find the key, which was much easier to hide than a 20-inch-tall gnome. Clues were hidden at Helena businesses.

“We were the keepers of the gnome,” said Laura Lynn Love, who works at Loading Dock South. “All the gnome hunters that came in were having such a good time. I got a lot of good feedback.”

Love estimated that 200 people participated in the hunt.

The gnome hunt is the brainchild of the anonymous man, known only as Hewy Nosleep, who runs the online blog, No Sleep in Helena. Nosleep wouldn’t relinquish his anonymity even for the hunt.

“We were only able to meet him because he had to give us his clues,” Love said. “He’s a very nice guy, but he’s completely anonymous. Apparently he’s very intelligent and he always does things like this.”

Love said although she’s not certain, she thinks the gnome hunt exists because Nosleep loves the garden decorations. He often posts about gnomes on his blog.

“I figure Hewy must have some fascination with gnomes,” she said. “I don’t know. I’ve never asked why.”

Nosleep was already planning a gnome hunt when Love came up with an idea that changed the hunt completely.

“He did a gnome hunt before just for fun in Helena. He would hide a gnome in the city and put the clues on his Web site,” Love said. “On his blog he was talking about the big gnome hunt, and we were talking about it at Loading Dock. We got an idea that maybe he could include businesses.”

Love said using local businesses to keep clues for people was beneficial because it brought in people who had never stopped in before.

“I know I talked to a couple of (the businesses) and they were thrilled with the prospect of people coming into the store who had never been in before,” she said. “These days, it’s very hard for small businesses to survive, and this is a way to help.”

The businesses also contributed prizes, mostly gift certificates, to be given to the winner. Loading Dock South contributed $100 in cash.

The hunt ended 12 hours after it began, with Dennis and Leigh Hulsey and their kids finding the key duct-taped underneath a slide in Cahaba Lily Park. The family made their way back to Loading Dock South and unlocked the gnome to claim their prizes.

On his blog, Nosleep wrote that he wanted the gnome hunt to be family-friendly.

“I like to hear that whole families participated and that children helped in the code cracking with their parents,” he wrote. “Sometimes they can see things that adults can’t.”

Businesses that participated included: Allstate Karen Miller Agency, Bead Biz, Big Mountain Coffee, Consignment Classics, Helena Body Spa, Lane’s Fish and Chicken, Loading Dock South, Painting Studio, Renaissance Salon, Sew What and Incahoots.