Calabash Festival offers gourds and more

Question: Is a gourd a fruit or a vegetable? Can you eat it? Would you want to? And how many useful items can you make from its hollowed shell?

The Western Colorado Botanical Gardens is celebrating the harvest season this weekend with a unique festival honoring an underrated, and underappreciated, Calabash plant.

Organizer and garden volunteer Elizabeth Harris has always had a “great deal of interest” in the plant, thought by some to be the oldest domesticated plant, she said.

“It’s just such an interesting plant with so many different uses,” Harris said. She likes the history behind the plant including the dancing, music and celebrations of the gourd in African culture, which inspired her idea to begin an annual Calabash Festival to benefit the botanical gardens.

“I was just thinking about doing something different and thought we should do this,” she said.

The festival, which takes place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. today, will benefit the Western Heritage Garden located within the botanical gardens.

The Western Heritage Garden has had a number of setbacks during construction, including having to be relocated due to right-of-way issues on the Colorado River, Harris explained.

She expects a good turnout to the festival despite the number of other events taking place this weekend.

The festival is a family event with activities for all ages. It will include a flower show and a gourd or pumpkin contest. Cash prizes will be awarded to winners. Entries will be accepted from 8:30 a.m. to 9:15 a.m.

Some booths will offer growing demonstrations, while gourd artist vendors will offer unique pieces. A silent auction will benefit the gardens.

There will be dancing to drum music around the calabash tree and special entertainment by Middle Eastern dancers. Children can learn and practice the ancient skills of gourd decorating in the Pomrenke Children’s Library. Food, drink and beer will be available.

The gardens will unveil its Hall of Memories wall at 3 p.m. in the library to honor all the work done by volunteers to create the Western Colorado Botanical Gardens.

Cost is $5 for adults, $3 for first child and $2 each additional child, children under age 6 are free. For information call 257-7408.


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