The Castle Valley Gourd Festival parade is like a lot of others: music, floats on trailers, and community members riding bikes, tractors and lawnmowers. But at the front of this parade struts “Gordy,” the parade marshal, decked out in a gourd costume designed by festival founders years ago.
The parade is also when the “Gourdess” appears for the first time, wearing her own homemade gourd costume. It’s always a surprise to see who was chosen – or persuaded – to assume the role, Event Coordinator Ruth Brown said.
“It takes a person willing to be the center of attention for the day,” Brown said, as the Gourdess often finds herself posing with families for photos.
Visitors can stop by the history table to see scrapbooks full of photos from past gourd festivals. The event typically draws anywhere from 200-400 people, Brown said.
Former actress and Castle Valley resident Tricia Ogilvy pens the script and designs the set for the Castle Valley Gourd Festival puppet show each year. The puppets and props she creates from gourds.
“We try to make the puppet shows as entertaining as possible for everyone,” Ogilvy said.
“Last year there were more adults than kids watching. It was standing room only, so this year we’ll do three shows.”
Ogilvy and Mark Roth will perform this year’s festival puppet show titled “Alexander the Great and the Gourdian Knot,” which will take place at 10:30 and 11:15 a.m. and at 1:15 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 19, at the Castle Valley Community Lot located at 2 Castle Valley Drive.
Each year, Red Cliffs Lodge donates huge pots of chilli –both meat-based and vegetarian versions–for the community potluck following the parade. Festivalgoers are encouraged to bring a side dish to share. The Castle Valley Fire Department is a huge supporter of the event, said Brown. Firefighters help set up tables and chairs, drive their fire trucks in the parade, and provide an EMT for the event in case of an emergency.
The small-town festival, which runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., attracts gourd artists from around the region, including Moab and Grand Junction, Colorado.
“There are gourd pieces turned into earrings and necklaces,” Brown said, adding that both children and adults can try their hand at decorating gourds.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Brown said. “Kids and adults paint gourds just for fun, all morning and afternoon.”
Although entrance to the festival is free, donations are always welcome to help offset costs, Brown said.