Nate Young is too young to have his own Facebook page. But Nate is great about posting stuff online, mostly videos of gaming tips or highlights from family camping trips.
“I like taking videos with friends and putting them on YouTube,” says the 8-year old Davidson resident.
So during a recent visit to Davidson’s Main Street Books store with his mom, Nate had no problem hamming it up while having a cell phone picture taken of his face inside a cutout of a gnome’s head as part of the town’s Gnome Town Tour promotion.
The selfie station is a 2-foot cardboard gnome with a cut-out for the customer’s face. Every participating business will have a Selfie Stop poster for its door or window.
For the rest of the prelude to Christmas day, Davidson business patrons will be able to participate in the Economic Development Department’s amiable program.
Local business leaders developed the promotion in which customers may post photos of their faces inside a gnome cut-out on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and become eligible for small prizes. It started Nov. 26 and will run through Dec. 24.
“I like the idea of really trying to get people back to small towns and getting them out of the large commercial franchises,” said Julie Young, Nate’s mom. “It shows what we have here by getting it onto social media. It’s a great outlet. People look on (social media) first and see a picture of a gnome and say ‘what’s that about?’. It brings people that may never visit. And it shows the magic of this area.”
Young says she shops Davidson’s downtown area about three times a week.
The Gnome Town Tour idea emanated from the Christmas in Davidson organizing committee. Business leaders wanted a way to encourage customers to visit not just during last weekend’s event but throughout the holiday season as well.
I love the idea of creating community. The one source that can bring the community together is the arts, including literature.
Connie Fisher of Davidson
Main Street Books owner Adah Fitzgerald is responsible for the idea. She is an admitted gnome fan, which ties in nicely to Davidson’s history with Tom Clark’s famed Cairn Studio and to Santa Clause’s gnome-like appearance.
Members of the Charlotte Writer’s Club North were recently at the book shop promoting their works. They aren’t used to hash-tagging, they say, but are willing to get their pictures taken as gnomes if it would help promote the shop’s mission and people reading books.
“I love the idea of creating community,” said member Connie Fisher of Davidson. “The one source that can bring the community together is the arts, including literature.”
Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream store manager Karen Toney was instrumental in developing the promotion’s concept. The durable cut-out of Ben and Jerry’s faces outside her store was the inspiration for the gnome face cut-out.
Toney commissioned one of her former employees, Davidson-based graphic designer Katherine Hilton, to create the gnome cut-out. Toney helped distribute them to more than 50 businesses throughout Davidson.
“We’re calling it a selfie station,” said Toney. “You hash tag ‘mygnometown’ and post it on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) and then from those hash tags, we’re able to put the entries into a randomizer and draw those prizes.”
Toney estimated that around 30 Ben & Jerry customers took gnome selfies during the first week. One of them was local businessman Mike Adams who visited more than a dozen stores and took selfies with his elementary school-aged daughter.
“This is not our peak season at Ben & Jerry’s so I have a lot more time to engage people and get them involved,” added Toney. “It’s always fun to watch those people that think it’s stupid and they don’t want to put a gnome in front of themselves. But they see their friends do it and they realize they can win things. It’s like a snowball effect.”
Joe Habina is a freelance writer: email@example.com.