How Did Vernors Come Up With This Little Guy as Their Mascot?
So what would you call this little guy who appeared for decades as the mascot for Vernors Ginger Ale? Was he a leprechaun, elf, pixie, sprite, brownie, goblin, dwarf…..what? His official character has been identified as a ‘gnome’.
Did he have a name? Sort of…once Vernors held a “Gname the Gnome” contest, with the winning name being ‘Jerome’.
“Jerome the Gnome”? Nah…it didn’t fly. While 'Jerome’ became lost to the ages, the unofficial name of the Gnome has been “Woody” for many decades. That makes more sense, as Vernors originated as being “mellowed four years in wood”.
Woody first appeared in Vernors ads in the early 1900s, drawn by artist Noble Fellows. Due to a bad business decision, the Vernors Gnome logo was wrongly eliminated in the 1980s (who the heck was the consultant responsible for that?). Dr. Pepper bought the rights and eventually brought Woody back in 2002, much to the delight of thousands of Vernors-drinkin’ Michiganders.
In the mid-1970s, a real, human Woody the Gnome began making personal appearances. He wasn’t gnome-size by a long shot – he was a big burly guy by the name of Ron Bialecki. He created his ‘Woody’ outfit and even customized a “gnome-mobile” that he could drive to personal appearances. After entertaining the masses for decades, Ron passed away in 2014.
Next question: But why use a gnome for the logo/mascot?
The historical recollections I read about Vernors failed to mention how someone came up with a gnome for a mascot. What was the connection? Did the “mellowed four years in wood” slogan have anything to do with it? Maybe someone connected the ‘wood’ angle with a tree-living ‘wood nymph’…but wood nymphs are usually female, so that doesn’t make sense, unless someone didn’t know the gender. A "wood sprite" maybe? Does anyone know?
So, while Vernors’ most famous mascot is known as ‘Woody the Gnome’ as well as the approximate time he first appeared, why he was a gnome in the first place remains a mystery. At least to me.
The Vernors Gnome