Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

The football-playing gnomes of New Ulm August 31, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 7:12 AM
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Gnomes line a section of boulevard along S. Broadway Street in New Ulm.

IF YOU’RE ZIPPING along Broadway Street in New Ulm, you might not notice the gnomes strategically lining a stretch of boulevard turf between South Sixth and Seventh Streets. Or if you do spot them, you might wonder, “What the heck was that?” And you’d likely keep right on driving.

But not me. I stopped to check out the gnomes on a recent visit to this German city that seems overrun with these curious little legendary elfins that supposedly live in the depths of the earth and hoard treasures.

The Broadway gnomes aren’t your ordinary gnomes, although at least half of them appear to be treasure-hoarders. More on that later.

Rather, these elfins comprise two football teams—the Minnesota Vikings and their archrival, The Green Bay Packers.

The Minnesota Vikings and The Green Bay Packers play football on a stretch of artificial turf along Broadway.

The creator of this curious football game has distinguished the teams by draping gnomes in purple capes and in green and gold capes. The Vikings sport homemade “helmets” that are more blue hats with tacked on horns than purple helmets. And The Packers appear to be wearing sponges, AKA protective cheese slices, atop their helmet-less heads.

But, hey, I give this sports artist an “A” for creating an original and durable work of roadside art.

This isn’t exactly the safest place to play football, though, I quickly learn as I crouched to take photos just feet away from the heavy traffic. One topple or misstep and I’d find myself sidelined with an injury, or worse.

I see a few tackled, injured, or maybe just wind-blown, Packers lying on the turf. A medic is even carting one off the field. I wonder if, occasionally, a Wisconsinite walks by and covertly knocks over a Vikings gnome. Come to think of it, I didn’t check to see if the football players are secured in place.

An injured Green Bay Packers gnome is carted off the field.

But of one fact I’m certain, these green-and-yellow outfitted football-playing gnomes remain true to their hoarding nature. They’re guarding their treasure, keeping the Vince Lombardi trophy away from the Scandinavian gnomes in this German city.


AT THE END of the football field, I discovered this sign: “To mow or not to mow, that is the question. Whats the answer?”

A homeowner makes a statement along a New Ulm boulevard.

Is the sign designer making a literal statement about mowing grass here? (I wouldn’t feel safe mowing this close-to-the-busy-busy-roadway boulevard.)

Or is the writer making a statement about the need for a new open-air football stadium with real grass versus artificial turf?


THEN, COINCIDENTALLY (or not), just around the corner from the Broadway football field, I spied this (team?) bus.

The Schell's beer bus was parked near Broadway Stadium.

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling