ALLIANCE: On the Internet, trolls are the bane of any intelligent discussion and in fairy tales they are stumpy, greedy little beings who harass billy goats and passers-by.
But in downtown Alliance on Saturday, the 3,254 troll dolls on display at the Arts for Alzheimer’s Gallery and Performing Arts Center were the good-luck kind that may have brought owner/collector Sherry Groom a Guinness record for the largest troll collection in the world.
“I came from the era when people thought collecting things was a cool thing and it just so happened that I had a couple of people who were generous who said ‘Oh! I’ll get you a collection,’ ” said Groom, who lives in Cuyahoga Falls.
But her desire to hold the record isn’t simply about personal pride or appearing on the Guinness website.
She owns the still-under-construction Troll Hole Folk Art Gallery just around the corner from the nonprofit Arts for Alzheimer’s Gallery on Main Street where the troll collection will be permanently housed.
Groom and her husband, Jay, ultimately plan to turn the gallery into a full-service arts center with studio space, workshops, a 200-seat performing arts center and art classes geared toward helping dementia sufferers and their caregivers.
Sherry Groom, a psychiatric nurse for 25 years, owns and operates Villa Maria Dementia Care Center in Alliance.
She said she received her first troll doll at age 5 for Christmas and continually added to her collection throughout her youth. But she said it was not until she was in her 30s during the troll doll fad of the 1990s that she and her previous husband began uh ... trolling auction sites and Craigslist for entire troll collections, some as large as 600 dolls, to subsume into her own growing collection.
“You just don’t realize how many you have until it’s overflowing,” she said.
The Saturday troll show was the last part of the Guinness World Record application process that includes inquiring about a record, documenting the collection (no duplicates, please) through an exact count handled by Jay Groom and verifying that count by three official witnesses.
The current world-record holder is Sophie Cross of Wallingford, United Kingdom, who has 633 trolls, a paltry one-fifth of Groom’s collection.
The trolls were on display throughout the gallery in different ways. One was embedded in the guts of an old computer tower, others were displayed on stained pieces of wood, chasing after little gold baubles and mushrooms painted by patients at Villa Maria.
But the most impressive scene was in the back room, where the bulk of Groom’s collection covered every inch of every wall and much of the floor space — with their 6,000-plus black eyes staring forward.
She showed a table filled with elaborately handcrafted Norwegian Fosse trolls, a wall of vintage trolls from the 1960s and 1970s, a rack of Korean knockoffs and even a giant-sized troll made from sheep’s wool.
In an adjacent room was a model of the finished center along with information about Alzheimer’s disease to drive home the ultimate goal of providing services to dementia sufferers and the workers who care for them.
“It’s a public service but we’ll be doing educational seminars because the reality of people with dementia actually getting their butts in here and their caregivers is pretty small, so what we’ll be doing is providing a venue where they can come for support and education and then take it back to their facilities and their homes,” she said of the center. “And artists always need a lot of support to flourish and get more attention for their work.”
The Grooms have received considerable help and encouragement from Alliance city officials and from Arts In Stark who rightfully see the Troll Hole as potential tourist attraction and the Alzheimer’s Gallery and Performance Arts Center as a important part of the burgeoning arts scene in Stark County.
The Grooms hope to be able to claim the world record for Sherry Groom in a few weeks and are working to have the Troll Hole Folk Art Gallery open by next spring and the center soon after that.
Malcolm Abram can be reached at 330-996-3758 or firstname.lastname@example.org.