Castle Valley artist Yrma van der Steenstraeten with one of her creations at last year's Castle Valley Gourd Festival. [Courtesy photo]

Gourd artists from Utah, Arizona, Colorado and as far away as Ohio will come to Castle Valley for the town’s annual Gourd Festival on Saturday, Oct. 15.

“It’s an amazing display of people’s ingenuity working with these gourds,” festival coordinator and Castle Valley resident Ruth Brown said. “Several people in Castle Valley are enamored with gourds – they’re amazing things.”

It’s a festive occasion that includes live music, gourds galore and a short parade at noon, followed by a community potluck.

Attendees are encouraged to bring prepared food to share at the mid-day meal. Red Cliffs Lodge will donate both vegetarian, and meat-based chili as it does every year.

You’ll find gourds painted, engraved or inlaid with polished stones, plus small gourd Christmas ornaments for sale. Additionally, there will be “raw” gourds from people’s gardens – for those who want to try creating their own gourd artwork.

Both kids and adults will have hands-on opportunities to decorate gourds. Children can also learn how to make birdhouses. Adults will learn how to clean and prepare gourds for painting.

Some people construct elaborate creations from several gourds or gourd pieces – like last year’s monkey that was perched in a tree, as well as a Cheshire cat and a praying mantis insect.

Cris Coffey helped found the festival in 2001, and hasn’t missed a festival since.

“I usually do gourd constructions – combining gourds together,” Coffey said. “This year, I’ll probably have some masks for sale, and little pots.

A “gourdess” from the community is designated each year – a woman who designs her own gourd-decorated costume. It’s a secret until the day of the festival.

Last year’s gourdess, dubbed “Gourd with the Wind,” was dressed like a Southern belle, Brown said. Another year, the chosen gourdess was a roller derby enthusiast who roller-skated through the parade wearing a helmet covered with gourds.

Tricia Ogilvy was a gourdess four years ago – now, she’s the designer, writer and puppeteer of the festival’s puppet show, performed in the morning, and again in the afternoon.

“We’ve made gourd puppets,” Ogilvy said. “It’s a show about gourds, different strains of gourds, all dramatized by puppets,” designed to entertain ages 4 to adult.

The other two puppeteers are Diana Ackerman and Mark Roth.

Another festival regular is “Gourdy” – a tall figure with gourds for hands and feet – a character who leads the parade.

Denver musician Ted Bright will perform throughout the day. Festivalgoers are also invited to bring their own musical instruments for singing and playing music together, Coffey said.

There’s a “history” table where visitors can look at photographs from prior festivals – including photos of past gourdesses, gourd art from around the world, and pictures of how gourds have been used in movies. Near the history table is a gourd gallery exhibit.

Sales from a silent auction – vendors donate pieces to it – help to raise money for future festivals.

Additionally, “We have a very good face paint artist,” Ogilvy said. “She turns these kids into kittens, wolves, et cetera.”

Another big attraction is the yerba mate-tasting stand. Mate is a South American drink typically served in a gourd, of course.

“The Castle Valley Gourd Festival is a local, folky, quaint, charming, funky festival,” Ogilvy said. “It’s just a great event.”

What: Castle Valley Gourd Festival

When: Saturday, Oct. 15, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Where: 2 Castle Valley Drive, Castle Valley

Cost: Free

Information:; or 435-259-0537

“Fun and funky” Castle Valley festival returns on Oct. 15

It’s an amazing display of people’s ingenuity working with these gourds.

For more information, go to:; or call 435-259-0537.