It seems only appropriate that for 2012, the ninth annual Gnome Fest returned to its roots in the Nine Mile Forest near Wausau Wisconsin, back where it all began. I’m a relatively new participant to Gnome Fest and got my introduction by serving as trail liaison for the past several years when the festival was held at the Levis Mound trail in Clark County. Although never a registered participant, I watched, photographed, rode and helped as much as I could as a trail host.
I was looking forward to being a civilian gnome for first time this year.
Click on any of the photos in the gallery below to see larger images.
As you can probably guess by the name and the poster, craziness is not in short supply at a Gnome Fest, but at the heart of the event are people that love mountain biking and riding and gathering together in a shared love of the sport. Initially when I served as trail host for the fest, I felt like a bit of an outsider. It seemed everyone else knew each other and I was just the local guy at Levis. That changed quickly though and now I feel like part of the great big family. Throughout the year, long after the dust has settled at the annual Gnome Fest, I seem to find myself riding with those same new friends. While the riding relationship last, I love how Gnomefest rekindles those friendships each year.
If you are an old school mountain biker like me, the fest sort of like a Midwest version of Pedro’s Fest from years gone by, but run a little looser. There are a number of organized rides, and this year the women’s ride was lead by the first Womens Mountain Bike World Champion Jacquie Phelan! What other sport can you mix it up with world champions and hall of famers?
There are also night rides, morning rides, random derbies, the Death Race, a Dirt Cat and of course, the ever popular nighttime Dwarf Cycle race, the highlight of each Gnome Fest. The potluck dinner, chili cook-off and home brew contest keep everyone fed and hydrated and tons of awesome door prizes ensure everyone goes home happy. During the awards ceremony and raffle, the kiddy beer pool is pure Gnome Fest, and just another way to add even more new friends to the my rider list.
Although the weekend forecast of cool temps and clear skies looked perfect, Mother Nature tossed in some rain, smack dab in the middle of the Dirt Crit, while riders were miles from the trail head. No matter, most participants kept pedaling (often confused and going every-what direction) seeking out obscure check points in the maze of trails at Nine Mile. None would finish in less than two hours. As in years past, I teamed up with friends to complete the event in a group, much more fun in my book. Surprisingly, we ended up third and scored some awesome sculptures by recycledartwerks.
All too soon, the weekend reached the final morning ride on Sunday. The last ride is typically done at a slow pace with lots of photo-ops. Those pictures will soon be shared in photo pools throughout the web to relive some of the weekend or perhaps entice new riders for the following year. After such a fun weekend with friends, there is nothing worse than having to break camp and saying goodbye to all the gnomies.
Unpacking at home is always a sobering reminder that another year will pass before we do it all again. The 9th Gnomefest return to Marathon County was a a great time, and a chance to once again ride trail where it all started. I look forward to next year’s rumored stop at the phenomenal Nicolet Roche trail system. See you there?
Photos by Marty Larson and Steve Meurett