Loren Femrite was minding his own business as a carpenter in Dawson when he was gnome-inated to take on an important task: crafting the annual gnome statues to honor community members who exemplify the local spirit of service.
Loren inherited making the gnomes from Doug Larson. This whimsical tradition dates to 1988. The first gnomes were made out of wood, and those reside in the local library, safe from the elements. Today’s gnomes start out as liquid concrete. Loren makes a form and molds the statue from the bottom up. It takes about three days. At Dawson’s Riverfest Celebration in June, the statues are revealed.
While Loren was reluctant to become the next gnomemaker — insisting he’s a woodworker, not an artist — he’s
not one to shy away from service.
“I like doing community things. I think it’s valuable,” said Loren, who served as a founding board member of the
Dawson Community Foundation.
Raised on a dairy farm outside Dawson, Loren was inspired to serve by Mr. Ruzich, his 7th grade civics
teacher. Mr. Ruzich taught his students everyone has a responsibility to participate in a democracy. Loren
went on to graduate from Dawson High School in 1964 and earned a degree in trade and industrial teacher
education from Minnesota State University, Moorhead.
Over the course of just one year — 1969 — he married an elementary teacher named Carole, graduated from
college, accepted his first teaching position, became a father, and was drafted into the Army. When Loren was
discharged from service, the couple returned to Dawson. Carole taught elementary school and Loren started a
business building kitchen cabinets.
Communities are shaped around their resources and creative thinkers, Loren believes. In Dawson, the agriculture industry has been a major force. The town is home to the first farmer-owned soybean processing plant in the state: Tri-County Soy Bean Cooperative Association began operating in November 1951.
“We were very fortunate four guys sat around a coffee table and said, ‘Let’s start a soybean processing facility,’”
Looking to the future, he’s concerned with job opportunities and attracting young families who will support the school system and keep the town vibrant.
“My hope is it can continue to be a place where people can earn a living,” Loren said. “Small communities have
something; you know people.”