Tory Hill, Gourd Goddess 2010, stands with Gourdy, the tall puppet who leads the annual Castle Valley Gourd Festival parade. (Courtesy of Castle Valley Gourd Festival)

You can’t eat it.

“It’s not food,” said Yrma Van Der Steenstraten.

It’s a gourd.

Gourds have been harvested for nearly 10,000 years and have been used as utensils, ornaments and musical instruments. Artists decorate the hard shell with paint and wood burning tools.

Castle Valley has celebrated the not quite a vegetable and definitely not a fruit for more than a decade through a harvest festival in the fall. This year families, artists and the gourd curious are invited to share gourd art, make gourd art and walk in the gourd parade on Saturday, Oct. 20.

You may have a gourd in your home and not even know it.

Van Der Steenstraten, the organizer of the 2012 Castle Valley Gourd Festival, didn’t know how common gourds were. It was only after she visited with Cris Coffey, gourd artist and the original organizer of the festival, that she realized gourds are everywhere.

Van Der Steenstraten went home and found a water container made from a gourd at her home, “more for decoration than use,” that came from Africa and was adorned with beads.

“It was just something I picked up somewhere,” she said. “It took it home because I thought it was cool.”

Several artists will showcase their gourds in the gourd gallery.

“It is like a little museum of gourd pieces,” Van Der Steenstraten said. “If you have something special, let us borrow it for the day and show it off to people.”

The festival has several activities, including demonstrations on how to decorate gourds, face painting, a puppet theatre and a fortune teller that uses tarot cards featuring gourds.

The highlight of the festival is the gourd parade at noon from the Castle Valley LDS Church to the Castle Valley community lot. Gourdy, a giant puppet made of gourds, leads the parade with children dressed as elves wearing gourd ornaments. The Gourd Goddess is introduced and she spreads out seed to sprout the next year.

“It is that time of year that gourds are ripe and they let their seeds go,” Van Der Steenstraten said. “She might also spread out candy and toys, too.”

Vintage cars, tractors, fire trucks and horses follow. Anyone is welcome to walk, even dogs.

“After the parade we have the potluck lunch. We ask people to bring a dish to share with others,” she said. “This year we want to go green. We ask people to bring their own plate and utensils.”

There is a silent auction that closes at 2:30, near the end of the festival. Items in the auction are donated by gourd artists.

“The auction is to fund the future gourd festival,” Van Der Streenstraten said. “We don’t ask for fee to visit or show. This is how we pay for the costs of the festival.”