Tchotchke Palooza fills Hartman Rock Garden will colorful icons

Quirky. Cheerful. One of a kind. 

If you haven't been to Hartman Rock Garden's annual Tchotchke Palooza, now's your chance. The free event will go from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. this Saturday, July 30, and boasts a unique experience you can only find within the garden.

"To see Hartman with all the colorful figurines, it feels like a different site with all the tchotchkes there," says Kevin Rose, Hartman Rock Garden's curator. 

Hartman Rock Garden is a cultural tourism site in Springfield and attracts visitors from near and far each week. Typically visitors come on their own and walk through the garden, in which former owner Ben Hartman spent 12 years crafting and filling with displays paying homage to America, Christianity, education and more. 

While the garden always is filled with more than 250,000 stones, specialty creations that once lived in the garden and were removed years ago to restore and preserve them will be brought back for the one-day engagement. Rose says plans are underway to try to have all the tchotchke's back in the garden permanently in the future.

Visitors can expect to see the likes of Felix the Cat, Mae West, the Old Lady Who Lived in the Shoe and more in the garden during the Palooza. 

"Hartman is a site where we try not to take ourselves too seriously," Rose says. "We are a museum, so to speak, but Ben Hartman was fun-loving, and we try to be fun-loving, too."

In addition to the rocks and figures visitors can see throughout the site, it's also a great location to take in the beauty of the more traditional garden scenes, Rose says. 

The event is held annually during the last Saturday in July because - while it is very hot - the flowers are at their peak, and it's the best time to showcase the flowers that also meant so much to the site's namesake. 

Rose says garden caretakers continue to plant many of the same flowers Ben Hartman did years ago. 

Hartman Rock Garden is free and open to the public during Tchotchke Palooza, and visitors can take a self-guided tour through the site. Volunteers will be on-hand to answer questions to share some history about the garden, Rose says. 

Also Saturday, Hartman Rock Garden is included as one of 10 stops along the also self-guided South Side in Bloom tour. Event goers can start at any of the 10 locations and follow from one to enjoy the beauty and history of the revitalized gardens throughout Springfield's Southside. 

"It's just a great opportunity to be out in the community," Rose says, adding that people might expect to spend about 20 minutes exploring Hartman. "It's not a lengthy visit, but with all the other things happening at all the other gardens nearby, it's a great place to stop by."

Read more articles by Natalie Driscoll.