DARKE COUNTY – The Ohio Gourd Society will hold their 55th annual show at the Delaware County Fairgrounds in Delaware, Ohio the weekend of October 6. Norman Roberts, president of the West Central Ohio Gourd Patch and one of the directors of the larger Gourd Society, spoke enthusiastically about the event, as well as about the versatile hard-shelled plants that inspired it.
The Ohio Gourd Show will feature a number of activities, according to Roberts, including gourd judging – an event not dissimilar to the livestock judging done at the Darke County fair – vendors selling crafts and supplies, live bluegrass and banjo music, and two days of workshops teaching people how to carve and decorate gourds. The event took place at the Darke County fairgrounds for the past seven years, but organizers this year opted for a more central location. The theme of this year’s show will be “the wizarding world of gourds.”
“It’s a great feeling when you can start out and grow your own gourd and then show it at a show,” Roberts said.
Roberts’ local group averages 12-15 members and meets the second Thursday of alternating months. In addition to their bi-monthly meetings, the group recently put on a display at Shawnee Prairie, during their Prairie Days festival.
At their most recent meeting, Roberts said topics of discussion included the success of the Prairie Days event, as well as how to attract younger people to the hobby.
“We were talking about the results of our little show that we had, and what we can do to improve it,” Roberts said.
Roberts told a story of a younger gourd enthusiast who approached him at the event.
“A young boy and his mother came up to us,” Roberts said. “He was maybe seven or eight years old, and his mother said he decided all by himself to start growing gourds.”
Gourds are extremely versatile, according to Roberts, with artisans and hobbyists using them to create musical instruments such as drums, flutes, mandolins, and bass fiddles. One such instrument, called an ocean drum, is made by drying out and washing a gourd, resulting in a wood-like finish, and then cutting off the bottom of the plant, filling it with pellets of birdshot, and stretching goatskin across the opening; rolling the finished drum from side to side produces a sound very similar to that of ocean waves breaking against a beach. A similar instrument incorporates a dangling, vibrating metal cord to produce a sound nearly identical to thunder.
“Anything you can do with wood, you can do with a gourd,” Roberts said.
Ultimately, according to Roberts, the group’s primary purpose is to share their love of gourds with the community.
“We mainly want to show the people of Darke County that gourds are a fine thing, and for them to have a good time.”
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