How do you make pieces of pine cone, a variety of nuts, locust pods, bromeliads and an arrangement of golden flowers one of the most talked about creations at the annual Books in Bloom event at Gustavus Adolphus College?
If you’re Chuck Eggert, you take the organic collection and turn it into one of the most feared characters in J.R.R. Tolkien’s popular book, “The Hobbit. “Eggert’s floral interpretation of the dragon Smaug was catching the attention of all ages of visitors Sunday at the Folke Bernadotte Memorial Library.
Tanner Grimmius had a guess for why the treasure-guarding dragon caught the attention of his sons, Miles, 5, and Weston, 2. It was one of the least abstract of the 30 flower arrangements that were paired with books at the event, he said.
“The fact that they recognized what it was was the big thing,” Grimmius said.
There also were about 30 volunteers from the Gustavus Library Associates Executive Board, library staff and the college’s student body to provided tours of the displays spread throughout two floors of the library. Floral designers volunteered to create arrangements that went with a wide variety of books, including books that are popular now, books that have been turned into movies, children’s books, more obscure books and books by local authors.
This was the third year for the event, but the first time Grimmius and his wife, Anne, have attended. The Owatonna couple grew up in St. Peter and both attended Gustavus. Tanner Grimmius said they were in town both to visit their parents and escape the 10 inches of snow that’s still on the ground at home.
“It’s an interesting thing,” he said. “I just like the idea that there’s more to the books than the words.”
Marisa Schloer, chairwoman of the Books in Bloom committee, said the idea for the event is based on the annual Art and Bloom event at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. Each book and bloom has a $500 sponsor, so this year’s event raised $15,000 for the library’s endowment. That doesn’t include the free-will donations from visitors. All of the materials for the arrangements are donated by the designers.
The event has grown from 22 arrangements the first year, Schloer said. There were 535 visitors last year during the event, which takes place Friday afternoon through Sunday. There were already 547 visitors this year by early Sunday. She has been involved in the event since it started.
“We were excited to have an opportunity to get people involved with Gustavus and into the library, into the nooks and crannies,” she said. “Word is starting to get out.”
Eggert said it took about a month to create the character Smaug, including planning and a few tossed efforts. He has created an arrangement each year and plans to be back next year. He enjoys the challenge each project brings.
When Eggert was given “The Hobbit” assignment, he quickly decided what scene he would use.
“I just immediately thought of the dragon and thought that would be really fun to create,” he said. “I’d never built a dragon before.”