The fall fair and festival season is here, and communities throughout the Southeast will be celebrating everything from fruit and flowers to arts and crafts. One of the more unique and interesting celebrations is the Georgia Gourd Society’s Gourdfest scheduled for Sept. 26-27 in Griffin.
The gourd is a relative of the squash and pumpkin and is believed to be one of the first cultivated plants grown in America. They were grown not for food, however, but for their utility as vessels, containers and utensils. For thousands of years before the development of pottery or metals, gourds provided the first natural containers.
When dried, the hard, wood-like outer shell could contain and protect everything from liquids to seeds, grains and food stuffs. They were the first Tupperware. These early people also found them handy for many other uses such as musical instruments, ceremonial masks, toys and jewelry.
The practice of decorating or embellishing valued objects, like gourds, goes back to the earliest times. Archeological excavations have found decorated gourds from ancient cultures around the world. Today, in countries like China, Africa and Peru, artisans still use gourds as a canvas for their traditional art, employing ancient techniques like pyrography (drawing with fire), engraving, carving and dyeing.
In the United States those traditions continue today through the activities of the American Gourd Society and their state chapters. The Gourdfest promotes their mission to teach and inform those interested in the culture, use, history and craftsmanship of gourds.
Over the past few years the Griffin area has become the center for many of the Georgia Gourd Society’s events and activities. There is now a local chapter (or “patch”), the Flint River Gourders, that meets monthly in Griffin.
To be held at the Griffin Kiwanis event center, 1025 South Hill St., the event will feature an art competition with the amazing work of gourd artists and crafters from around the southeast. There will be vendors with an endless assortment of art and craft supplies, tools, gourd art for sale and mounds of dried gourds ready for crafting. Skilled gourd artists will also be on hand giving free demonstrations and teaching low-cost classes from beginner level to experienced. Most of the classes will allow the participant to leave with a finished gourd project.
Details about the 2015 Gourdfest, directions and class descriptions and registration can be found at www.georgiagourdsociety.com.
If you are looking for an interesting and inexpensive way to spend the day with friends or family, this is it. The Kiwanis building is air conditioned, handicap accessible, and parking and admission are free.