CULLMAN – The 19th annual Alabama Gourd Festival has come and gone, with hundreds of artists and fans gathering at the Cullman Civic Center from all over the state (plus a few other states and countries!) to shop, compete with their peers and learn some new techniques.
Dozens of vendors and booths were set up in the civic center for fans and shoppers to admire the artwork and buy gifts and decorations, as Halloween and Christmas quickly approach. There were also hourly demonstrations and lessons to help artists improve their own work.
Pam Montgomery was the festival's show chair for the 11th consecutive year and said she has seen the crowds steadily grow as more participants come in from all over the country.
"We're ahead this year from last year. Our attendance had been dropping a little bit but we're on the increase again and this year we have vendors from 10 different states; people come from all over," Montgomery said. "We've got people here taking classes from Kansas, Idaho and Ohio, so I mean people really travel for the show."
Montgomery didn't even want to try to guess how many gourds the show goes through and has on display for the annual festival but said she knows the number is in the thousands. She said social media has been a tremendous help in helping the festival grow and is starting to bring in bigger crowds.
The president of the Alabama Gourd Society, Mack Gothard, was also very pleased with this year's turnout and said he is excited to share the culture with a lot of new faces.
"There are a lot of people that work on gourds, and that’s our goal is to bring them in and find out more about them and the work they do. Whatever you can do in artwork you can do on a gourd; what I love about it is you don’t have to frame it. On canvas you have to pay a lot of money to frame it so it's amazing what you can do with a gourd," Gothard said. "People (come) from all over, and every year people see new ideas and they go back home and try it themselves, so this is like an experiment; it's a learning experience and that’s what our purpose is, to promote the gourd and the craftsmanship in a gourd."
Gothard said people participated in the festival this year not just from the United States, other countries as well, as the event continues to grow in popularity.
"Yesterday we had two people from Canada come through, we had two from Australia come in, we have people from all over the place. Our vendors come from Ohio, California and even New Hampshire, so we cover the whole United States. Last year we had an increase of over 200 people and our attendance Saturday was over 760 for one day in Cullman, and next year we're going to try out a Friday and Saturday setup to see if we can get that number even bigger,” he said.
This year, there was a sign in front of the civic center that read, "Save a pumpkin, buy a gourd." Gothard said he doesn’t know that the gourd can completely defeat the pumpkin tradition on Halloween, but said a pumpkin will be gone next year while a gourd will last.
"Well we'll never replace the pumpkin on Halloween, but the thing about it is, your pumpkin is going to be gone, a gourd’s going to last, so if you painted it up like a pumpkin for Halloween it's going to be there next year too."
The Alabama Gourd Festival will be held at the Cullman Civic Center for the next three years on the third weekend of October. Next year will be the 20th anniversary. To find out more about the Alabama Gourd Society, visit www.alabamagourdsociety.org.
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