Collecting Memories, Collecting Treasures

It all started with my family’s inside joke about gnomes. Our favorite commercials are the ones featuring the Travelocity gnome, and one day at a bookstore we found a three-inch tall mini-gnome that looked just like him. This small purchase led to the purchase of larger garden gnomes for the backyard, a gnome thermometer for the porch, a gnome Christmas ornament, gnome potholders, and more. (It’s safe to say my parents are now those “crazy yard gnome” people.)

Last summer, while looking for things to do around Minnesota, I came across, where you can search the weird sites and attractions in the U.S. Here I learned about Gnometown, USA, otherwise known as Dawson, Minn. The town is scattered with gnome statues, created after people in the town with the purpose of keeping their stories alive. Dawson is only about 150 miles from the Twin Cities, which made this a perfect weekend venture for my mom and me.

Though our destination was to see Gnometown, USA, we didn’t want to drive three hours just to see gnomes. We turned our drive into an old-fashioned road trip; we had no plan (except for hotel reservations in Montevideo) and stopped at random destinations along the way to discover more about the small towns in western Minnesota. However, our main goal was to find antique shops.

We headed to Dawson by taking Highway 112. The first antique shop we found was Renville Antiques, right off the highway. My mom found her first cookie jar—a blue polka dotted chicken. I got a pair of earrings for $2. (Antiquing tip: you can bargain just like at a garage sale.) My earrings were priced $6, but I pointed out that there was a slight scratch.

Also along Highway 112, there is an antique store in Olivia, and there are two in Granite Falls. We visited Prairie Mercantile in Granite Falls, an antique store that is inside of an old gas station, with the pumps still outside.

After visiting the gnomes in Dawson, we headed to Montevideo, where we found another antique store, but it was already closed for the evening. (Another tip: most antique stores in small towns are not open evenings, and close even earlier on the weekends. Make sure to start your road trip early in the day.)

Our last day we took MN-23 E. all the way to I-94 E. This route led us into more populated towns and we found antique stores in Willmar, Spicer, and Paynesville. Long Lake Antiques in Willmar was the largest antique store we visited, with the highest ceilings and least crowded walkways. This made for the most comfortable antiquing experience. Plus, right outside of the store is Long Lake.

A trip like this certainly can be taken without visiting a single antique store. Perhaps there are foods you want to eat along the way, or a place you want to camp. Sometimes you just need to journey down the road to discover a new place or treasure.