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Ideas for Fall Yard Decorations

Gourd Craft at the Ohio Gourd Show

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As this photo of a hardshell gourd shows, this type gets large, unlike the smaller ornamental type.

What's this, a gourd in a miniature chair? No, the other way around, folks: the chair is of a normal size; but hard-shell gourds can be enormous, such as the one in my photo.

David Beaulieu

Are you fresh out of ideas for fall yard decorations? Would you like to spice up your autumn landscaping with novel, homemade ornaments? Consider attending the Ohio Gourd Show, held annually on the last weekend of September.

Hard-shell gourd craft can make for novel fall yard decorations, such as unique jack-o'-lanterns. If you would like to learn more about gourd craft before attempting to carve your own gourds, I cannot think of a better event to attend than the Ohio Gourd Show, the largest gourd show in the world.

So what exactly are hard-shell gourds? And what in tarnation is a gourd show?

Hard-shell gourds differ markedly from the small and colorful ornamental gourds found widely at fall farm stands. The latter are used en masse as Halloween decorations and as adornments for the Thanksgiving table, after which they are usually disposed of (rather like pumpkins). But hard-shell gourds are keepers. These calabashes literally do have a hard shell which, when cured properly, dries to a wood-like texture. This is what makes them suitable for gourd craft -- and even gourd art. When purchasing seeds to grow hard-shell gourds, look at the scientific plant name. The genus should read, Lagenaria.

A gourd show is an extravaganza organized by hard-shell gourd enthusiasts. Many states have gourd societies that put on gourd shows. But the Ohio Gourd Society (the Beta Chapter of the American Gourd Society, the national organization for gourd enthusiasts in the U.S.) puts on the largest gourd show.

Occurring annually in Greenville, OH (formerly in Mt. Gilead, OH) during the last weekend of September, the Ohio Gourd Show is held at the Darke County Fairgrounds. The Ohio Gourd Show is open to the public.

What will you see at the Ohio Gourd Show? Well, there is something for everyone, including food and entertainment. It is truly a spectacle, with as many as 10,000 visitors showing up, from all over North America. You can imagine how the sleepy little town of Greenville is transformed! Gourd farmers bring truckloads of gourds to sell at the gourd show. An earthier celebration of the harvest you will not find. Gourds by the thousand are sold every which way: freshly picked (wet), already cured (dried) and already crafted. You will walk past pile after pile of gourds as you stroll the fairgrounds.

But that is just the beginning. The most energy is generated by the contests, held for various gourd categories. For instance, gourd growers haul in their prize specimens grown over the summer to see who has raised the largest (by poundage) gourd (rather like the more widely publicized pumpkin weigh-offs).

The gourd growing aficionados who participate in the weigh-offs constitute one distinct group of gourd enthusiasts. The other distinct group consists of those interested in gourd craft. The latter have their own rounds of contests and set up booths at which they sell their gourd art. These booths are the places to visit if you wish to learn more about gourd craft for fall yard decorations. The artists are very friendly: pick their brains for pointers. Many of them will be busy crafting gourds right at their booths, so that the public can witness how they ply their craft.

For those uninitiated in gourd-mania, the most striking spectacle at gourd shows can be the die-hard gourd enthusiasts who attend. Believe me, this is fertile ground for people-watching. If you want to be entertained by eccentric characters, the Ohio Gourd Show will not disappoint you. What perhaps exemplifies this aspect of the show best is the gourd hat contest. This is a contest in which you wear your creation. People can look pretty silly in these things....

After garnering some gourd craft ideas from the gourd artists at the Ohio Gourd Show, do not forget to purchase some raw material for your own fall yard decorations, i.e., the gourds themselves. Bring a couple home and try your hand at gourd craft. At the very least, craft a novel jack-o-lantern this year, using a gourd instead of a pumpkin. To find out how, please consult the already mentioned How To Make Halloween Jack-O-Lanterns or Birdhouses From a Gourd. Unlike an ephemeral pumpkin jack-o-lantern, you will have your handiwork for the rest of your life!

If you can't make it to the Ohio Gourd Show, you can explore gourd craft through any of the numerous fine books available on the topic, or by searching the Internet for "gourd craft."

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