Gourd Festival Comes Home

Sacramento Region, CA   |  By Jacqueline Fox
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Colleen Ballard and Barbara Rippetoe show off some of the fine gourd art to be presented at the festival. Photo by MPG staff

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Sacramento County, CA (MPG) - The Gourd is Back. The Northern California Gourd Art Competition and Gourd Exhibit is returning to Orangevale this September, roughly 14 years since it was moved from its original location in Folsom, due to construction of a new shopping center.

The gourd competition and festival, co-hosted by the Folsom and Amador Gourd Artists associations will make its return to Orangevale September 30 at the Orangevale Community Center, where organizers are hoping to keep the festival moving forward, as it has moved more than four times in the last decade.

“We are really thrilled to be able to have the festival back in Orangevale,” said newly installed chairman of the event, Barbara Rippetoe, an accomplished gourd artist and member of both the Folsom and Amador associations, which have a combined membership of 80 gourd artists.  “I really wanted to help move the festival back to Orangevale and after a lot of discussion and investigating, we finally found a new home and are very excited to be coming back.”

The original festival, known as the West Coast Gourd Festival, was launched at Zittel Farm in 1996 in Orangevale. It was held at the farm annually through 2003 with solid attendance and a strong following of some of the region’s most renowned gourd artists, Rippetoe said.  But in 2004, a shopping center was built adjacent to the original location at Zittel Farm, forcing a move to Greg Leiser Farms in Knights Landing, followed by another move to Folsom Park until 2009.  Complications with the Folsom Park location forced another move, this time to Davis Ranch Slough House, where the festival ran through 2015.  It did not run in 2016, said Rippetoe.

Now, with a permanent spot back in Orangevale, says Rippetoe, expectations are high for a large turn-out, both by local gourd artists and novice competitors alike, as well as locals who just want to witness firsthand how many different ways there are to create art from a gourd, typically the dried, hard shell of any one of the countless plants belonging to the cucuritaceae (pronounced kyoo-kur-bi-tey-shuh) family of squash or a pumpkin.

The festival kicks off on Friday, Sept. 29 with gourd art classes taught by several well-known gourd artists, including Toni Best, Joyce Campbell, Vickie Echols and Bettie Lake. Classes are open to all.  Then, from Sept. 30 to Oct. 1, gourd artists will compete in several design categories and divisions, including a novice category for student entries from the classes held prior to the launch of the competition.

Competition divisions will be available for youth, novice, intermediate, advanced and master level gourd art makers. Gourds will be scored using a point system and judging will consider originality, quality of craftsmanship, creativity and artistry, color and use of accessories, as well as overall decorative work.  These can range from pyrography (burning in designs and shapes) and carving gourds, to those embellished with a vast array of mediums, including paint, fiber art, jewelry, beads, feathers and more.

You don’t have to be a gourd artist to get in on the action. The event is free and, in addition to the competitions, classes and even a gourd hat parade, individual artists will be selling their wares, which may include everything from purses, dolls, jewelry, drums and other items, all made from gourds, of course. 

For more information, please visit: www.californiagourdsociety.com.

The Northern Gourd Art Competition and Gourd Exhibit
Sept. 30 to Oct. 1
Orangevale Community Center
6826 Hazel Ave.
Competition Entry Fee: $6.00 for members, $10.00 for all others
Deadline for entries: Friday, Sept. 29 

Colleen Ballard and Barbara Rippetoe show off some of the fine gourd art to be presented at the festival. Photo by MPG staff