A sampling of the gnomes donated so far for this May’s gnome-themed South Portland-Cape Elizabeth SpringFest. Contributed / Jim Britt

Is there more to SpringFest this year? The answer to that is yes – and gnomes.

While the second annual SpringFest Community Celebration held in South Portland is over two months away, the South Portland-Cape Elizabeth Rotary Club is planning a big build-up to it, including a fireworks show at 6 p.m. March 11 at Fort Williams in Cape Elizabeth.

While their first SpringFest last year was a success, Rotary President Jim Britt said the club wanted to find a way to make it more appealing to “people of all ages and all walks of life.”

“Gnomes became the theme,” Britt told The Forecaster. “After about a five-minute pause, we all said, ‘We love it. Let’s do it. Let’s have fun with this.'”

The reaction from the community so far has been positive, he said, and in some cases even passionate.

“Every time we talk to somebody about the event and how the gnome theme is going to permeate every element of the event, people get excited,” Britt said. “It’s a funny reaction to the idea of gnomes. I’ve had people say ‘Oh my god, I love gnomes!'”


Wednesday marks the beginning of the Rotary Club’s Gnome Drive, “the world’s very first,” according to the club.

“Every single gnome is going to be given away to a kid during the festival (in May),” Britt said. “We want everybody to participate in an activity – go home with a memory in the form of a gnome from SpringFest.”

Donated gnomes can be dropped off at the South Portland Recreation Center on Nelson Road, and more drop-off locations will be announced soon.

Having the “Light Up the Sky” fireworks show, rescheduled from March 4 to March 11 because of a stormy weather forecast, is a nod to the Rotary’s WinterFest, which SpringFest has ultimately replaced. The club has had bad luck with its WinterFest in recent years, from not enough snow to host snow-dependent activities, to too much snow for people to travel safely to the celebration.

“The fireworks were always the finale aspect to WinterFest, and the town of Cape Elizabeth, who hosts our fireworks, enjoyed them last year,” Britt said. “In conversations with the town, we decided to keep it in winter.”

While the fireworks take place at Fort Williams, Britt noted Bug Light Park and Willard Beach in South Portland should provide good vantage points.


In the weeks leading up to the festival in May, local libraries will launch a “Reading Gnomes” program, with gnome-themed reading events and activities. “Gnomes@Knight,” a gnome-themed street festival in South Portland’s Knightville geared toward high schoolers, will be held May 19.

“One of our missions of this festival is to engage younger people,” Britt said. “The idea is to just make kids laugh about this gnome idea, but come and celebrate (it too).”

May 20 “is the big day,” Britt said, with gnomes galore at the SpringFest celebration at Mill Creek Park in South Portland.

A “Little Gnomes” play area will feature activities for children, while people of all ages can participate in a “Gnome Search,” hunting down gnomes placed around the park. There will also be a “Gnome Depot” where local craftspeople and makers can sell gnome-themed items to attendees.

“I’ve received at least a half-dozen applicants already,” Britt said. “These will range from ornaments to ceramics to clothing.”

Food trucks, fire trucks, live music and booths set up by local organizations are some returning aspects of SpringFest this year.


“Participating organizations set up their booths to kind of showcase their good work in the community,” said Fran Bagdasarian, the club’s public relations director. “Some of them last year had little games and giveaways.”

A 50-team gnome cornhole tournament will also take place May 20, and more details on that will be released in the coming weeks, Britt said.

While the gnome theme may seem silly to some, it’s all in the name of community and celebration.

“This festival is born of the need and want to come together as a community in a very traditional, call it old-fashioned, way,” Britt said. “We gather in a community park and celebrate together and enjoy each other’s company … we want everyone to be involved and feel part of the community and feel the love and friendship that exists here.”

For more information on SpringFest, and the activities and evenhttps://www.facebook.com/Rotary.SPCE/ts leading up to it, go to sp-ce-rotary.org or the Rotary Club’s Facebook page.

This story was updated March 2 to include the rescheduled date for the fireworks show.

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