For more than 10 years, the world’s largest gnome stood sentinel over Nanoose Bay without official recognition.
This year, official arbiter The Guinness Book of World Records finally recognized the Nanoose ESSO gnome as the world’s largest at 7.91 metres (25 ft. 11 in.) tall.
The friendly giant was built in 1998 by Ron Hale as an attention-grabbing mascot for the go cart track he and his son Bruce ran on the property where the gas station now stands.
Inspired by a book on gnomes that his artist wife Disa had written, the “jack of all trades” set about building it out of what he called “junk” using their own garden gnome as model and scaling it up 15 times.
He built a frame out of scrap metal in three sections (legs, torso and head) in his garage and constructed the exterior out of everything from ice cream buckets, bleach bottles and Styrofoam to paper making byproducts from the Port Alberni mill.
Installed in 1998, he said the attraction made a noticeable difference in business, with many people stopping to see it and take pictures — a common sight to this day.
“It’s a happy thing, people say they wave to it every morning or use it to give directions to their house, or tell people they’ll meet them there,” Disa said, clearly proud of the creation that now belongs to the property which they have since sold.
Ron said he never considered his creation’s place in the world of gnomes. It wasn’t until well after it was built that his wife looked into the world record and began what turned out to be a lengthy and complex process.
It had to be inspected by an engineer and involved seemingly endless paper work, with the official measuring taking place in August 2009.
Though it has been moved around the property several times, due mostly to regional district “bureaucratic hassles,” its protection was a condition of the land sale, giving it some legal protection.
Though the record shatters a number of international “world’s largest” claims ranging from four to 5.4 metres, the Hales concede someone will likely build a bigger one just to take the record, “that’s how it goes,” Disa said.
According to Wikipedia, gnomes date back to at least the 16th Century and have shifted over the centuries as similar to faeries, dwarves or goblins that live in the soil.