Holiday cheer spread to downtown Pequot Lakes businesses by 'secret gnome'

Many business owners returning to work the day after Thanksgiving found a whimsical gnome artwork with a message of good wishes hanging from their outside doors.

This is a sampling of gnomes Lesa McQuaid made for Pequot Lakes businesses and secretly hung on their front doors Thanksgiving night. Each gnome has an inspirational message written on the back. Contributed (December 2021)
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It seems someone has already spread holiday cheer through Pequot Lakes ahead of Santa’s visit later this month.

To the delightful surprise of many Pequot Lakes business owners, a “secret gnome” made the rounds Thanksgiving night and left many with a whimsical painting of a gnome with their business’ name and an encouraging message on the back, signed with a heart and the words “the secret gnome.”

“The next year will be your best year ever! Positive changes bring happiness,” says the message on the back of the gnome hanging just inside the door at Lakes Latte on Government Drive.

“This gnome will bring success and happiness to all who work here,” says the message at Glenda’s Beauty Salon on Butler Street.

The message for Jack Schmidt’s Outdoorsmen’s Barber Shop reads: “This gnome will bring you good luck through 2022. Happy holidays.”


"I don’t know who’s doing it, but I think it’s so awesome. They’re so cute."

— Glenda Schmidt

Both signs hang in the entryway to the salon and barbershop.

“I don’t know who’s doing it, but I think it’s so awesome. They’re so cute,” said Glenda Schmidt, beauty salon owner. “It’s so appreciated. Whoever’s doing it, I want to say thank you.”

Barb Merritt, owner of Merritt Jewelers on Front Street with her husband, Don, is one of a few who discovered the secret gnome’s identity.

“I arrived Friday morning (after Thanksgiving) and saw the gnome zip-tied to our door. I did wonder who would do this?” Merritt said via email. “I have my gnome hung on the wall by my coffee bar so everyone is sure to see it! I love surprises and gifts!”

Her message on the back reads: “This gnome brings good health, happiness and success to all who work here! Best year ever ahead.”

"My inspiration really came from making them the year before for my nieces and then wanting to do something nice for my little town of Pequot."

— Lesa McQuaid


The secret gnome’s genuine love of Pequot Lakes spurred the idea to create the artworks and secretly leave them around town.

“My inspiration really came from making them the year before for my nieces and then wanting to do something nice for my little town of Pequot,” she said. “It makes you feel good to get a compliment, and I believe everything I wrote.”

Her enthusiasm is also genuine. Staying anonymous at first because she didn’t want to draw attention to herself, the artist eventually agreed to share her identity.

“I didn’t do it for a thank you. I was proud when I saw them hanging on the wall and they said it meant a lot to them,” said the secret gnome - Lesa McQuaid, a Pequot Lakes resident who moved here from California a year ago with her husband, Dan.

“It just turned into kind of a fun thing,” McQuaid said.

After living in large cities where people knew their neighbors but not their towns, McQuaid has absolutely fallen in love with Pequot Lakes. She and Dan moved here because her sister and brother-in-law - Melissa and Jay Chaney - live here.

“My husband and I just think this is the coolest town. I love how quaint it is and how everybody knows everybody,” said McQuaid, who works at the Pequot Lakes American Legion.

She’s enjoyed getting to know people through her work, as well as through shopping and banking locally. So she wanted to do something to brighten the days of those who have done that for her.


McQuaid made a few gnomes each night and then applied shellac - something she hadn’t done when she made her original artworks for her three nieces.

“Oh my gosh, it came out so cute when I shellacked it,” she said.

McQuaid created a gnome for Merritt Jewelers because they’d fixed her ring. She previously worked at Fun Sisters so she did one for that store, and then for the Legion.

"My husband and I just think this is the coolest town. I love how quaint it is and how everybody knows everybody."

— Lesa McQuaid

A few gnomes suddenly blew up to 30.

The secret gnome had help zip-tying the artworks to businesses’ front doors Thanksgiving night - her husband and friends Anna and Brandon from the Legion.

“It just was fun, is what it was,” McQuaid said. “I love doing art.”

Nancy Vogt may be reached at 218-855-5877 or Follow her on Facebook and on Twitter at

Nancy Vogt is editor of the Pineandlakes Echo Journal, a weekly newspaper that covers eight communities in the Pequot Lakes-Pine River areas - from Nisswa to Hackensack and Pequot Lakes to Crosslake.

She started as editor of the Lake Country Echo in July 2006, and continued in that role when the Lake Country Echo and the Pine River Journal combined in September 2013 to become the Pineandlakes Echo Journal. She worked for the Brainerd Dispatch from 1992-2006 in various roles.

She covers Nisswa, Pequot Lakes, Lake Shore and Crosslake city councils, as well as writes feature stories, news stories and personal columns (Vogt's Notes). She also takes photos at community events.

Contact her at or 218-855-5877 with story ideas or questions. Be sure to leave a voicemail message!
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