You can't drive down a southern highway without noticing the teardrop shaped bird houses made from gourds hanging in the yards of homes and homesteads.
Most people identify with this singular use of gourds but are unaware of the rich history and the role gourds have played in cultures going back thousands of years.
The Georgia Gourd Society is a non-profit organization formed with a commitment to promoting the horticulture, crafting and appreciation of this useful and historic plant. They do this by providing educational opportunities, activities and public exhibitions, such as the 2016 Gourdfest to be held in Griffin, Ga. this September.
But the ways our ancestors around the world used the gourd didn't end there. Cultures have used them for everything from musical instruments and ceremonial masks to fishing floats, jewelry, helmets and baby toys. Today, much of our modern dishware, containers and utensils still reflect the shapes of these ancient tools.
Because they were valued, gourds were often decorated and embellished by early artisans. In many cases they became the art of a culture. Gourds still serve as a canvas for artistic expression in countries like Africa, China and Peru where the intricate skills of etching and pyrography(drawing with fire) on gourds continue to be passed down from generation to generation.
Organizations like the Georgia Gourd Society, and the other 25 state chapters that make up the American Gourd Society, are keeping this heritage alive and demonstrating how this tradition has morphed in modern culture. The 2016 Gourdfest on September 24th and 25th will feature the amazing work of gourd artists from all around the southeast United States. There will be classes, demonstrations, historical displays, plus vendors with art and craft supplies, tools and piles of raw gourds ready for crafting.
It will be a great way to spend the day with family or friends. The venue at the Kiwanis fairgrounds in Griffin is air conditioned, handicap accessible, and parking and admission are free. It is not the usual "fall festival" and you might just discover a fascinating new hobby! Directions, hours and class information can be found on the society's website - georgiagourdsociety.com.