People in a variety of costumes—mermaid, jellyfish, crab—parade through Castle Valley.
During the annual Gourd Festival parade, people dress up to be led through Castle Valley by Gourdy. [Courtesy photo]

Gourd art! Gourd parade! Gourd Goddess (Gourdess)! Castle Valley’s annual celebration of all things gourd is back after a two-year pandemic hiatus: the 19th Castle Valley Gourds & More Festival is on Saturday, Oct. 15, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Castle Valley Community Lot. 

The festival is wildly beloved in Castle Valley: it was started in 2000 by a small group of gourd artists in the town. Gourd art involves creating artwork using hard-shell, dried gourds as a medium: gourds are painted on, dyed, polished, carved; or made into things like baskets, sculptures, and musical instruments. The festival centers around the local and regional gourd artists who will sell their wares. 

This year’s festival is also celebrating the memories of two founders who have died, Cris Coffey, who once hosted a rainy-day gourd festival in her home, and Robert Ridges. Their artwork will be on display during the festival at the gourd gallery; there will also be raw gourds, grown by local and regional farmers, on display. 

Two other pillars of the festival, the puppet show and parade, will also return this year. The puppet show, run by Tricia Ogilvy, features an original script, set, and hand-made puppets: this year’s show is titled “The Gourds of Olympus!” The parade, led by Grand Marshall “Gourdy” and featuring the Gourd Goddess, will begin at noon. 

A gourd painted and carved to look like an aardvark—a gourdvark, if you will. [Courtesy photo]

There are a number of other activities, too. Ruth Brown, a festival organizer, Castle Valley resident, and longtime participant of the gourd festival, said she and a few others spent half a day on Oct. 4 cleaning gourds for a gourd decoration booth at the festival, which will be open for kids and adults. Gourd artists will also give demonstrations, and other interactive booths include face-painting and fortune-telling by “Madame Gourdini.”

This year is the first year ever that the gourd festival opened up its vendor space to local artists who are not gourd artists—Brown said there will be art including beadwork, sculpture, and woodworking for sale. There will also be a wool spinning exhibition: Brown said hopefully, the local wool spinners will bring their sheep as well. 

The week leading up to the festival is Fire Prevention Week in Castle Valley: the fire department will play a significant role in the festival, with a large display. Brown said the fire department will also be the beneficiary of any extra profits the festival makes. 

“It just brings the whole community together for fun and relaxation,” Brown said. 

The festival will take place from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Castle Valley. Brown added that there will not be a potluck this year, nor will any food be for sale, so attendees are encouraged to bring a picnic lunch; most vendors are cash-only; and there are no dogs allowed.