The annual Castle Valley Gourd Festival is scheduled to be held on Oct. 20 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the town’s community center. The annual tractor parade will also begin promptly at noon at the LDS Church parking lot next door, and the potluck lunch is scheduled to begin at 12:30 p.m. in the fire house. Yrma van der Steenstraeten has assumed the responsibility of organizing the event and she has enlisted the help of others including Mary Beth Fitzburgh and Leta Vaughn, who are in charge of the lunch, and Faylene Roth, who is coordinating the parade.
This event began Oct. 27, 2001 when Cris Coffey, Rebecca Martin and maybe a few others wanted to enlighten people about the beauty and versatility of gourds and the fact that they are one of the oldest cultivated plants in the world. Anciently as well as in modern times, the gourds have many practical uses, such as bowls, utensils and musical instruments, but their use is really only limited to one’s imagination. That first year, someone even fired off a rocket that was made out of a gourd.
Since that first event where 125 people attended, the gourd festival has been successfully carrying on the tradition, with the exception of last year, when the organizer just couldn’t put it all together in time. In place of the gourd festival, the fire department hosted a community fire engine parade and chili feed instead, to commemorate National Fire Prevention Week. That could have developed into an annual event if the gourd festival had not continued.
Two years after the gourd festival began, another annual event started. Catherine Howells originally planned to hold the first annual Castle Valley Tractor Parade during the evening of the Fourth of July. Some people were going to be out of town that weekend and others thought it would simply be too hot at that time, so she delayed the idea and hoped to have it in the fall. As the gourd festival drew near, Howells asked Cris Coffey if she could have the parade in conjunction with the gourd festival. That has been the case ever since.
The tradition of the monthly community potluck dinners at the LDS Church has been going on for at least as long and probably longer than the gourd festival. On the second Tuesday of every month, with the exception of two summer months, the community is invited to bring a potluck dish to share and enjoy a fine array of delectable dishes and enjoy the company of their neighbors. That tradition continues this month, when the potluck dinner will commence at 6:30 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 11. The dinners last about an hour and allow people time to return to their homes and finish their evening activities.
The annual farmer’s market has been going on for at least the past 13 years. One of the early weekly farmer’s markets was started by Marlene Lee, but others on the committee were Jorge Del Moral, Tom and Carolyn Henry, Bambi Honer and Jerry Harris of the Day Star Adventist Academy. Lee said at the time that the market would allow residents to sell produce and other items that they raised or crafted. She said that in addition to the benefits of pocket money for the sellers, it would provide fresh and home-made products for the other residents, and a chance to meet people without the presence of political agendas.
That same agenda existed over the years as several other groups formed farmer’s markets and sold their products on the town lot every week during the summer. Today, a group meets every Tuesday afternoon from 4 to 6 p.m. to sell produce and other items.
Thirty years ago this week, preparations were under way for what was to become an annual event in Castle Valley. Joan Schmidt was the coordinator of the first annual Castle Valley Arts and Crafts Fair, and she had help from an array of committee members including Debbie Officer, Norma Montague, Ron Drake, Patt Plastow, Phyllis Godwin, Eileen Kusel, Monte Bowthorpe, Ginger Miller, Virginia Halley, Lin Kolb, Trudine Whitney, Lou Schmidt, Ann LaMunyon, and Kathy Skiles.
The committee members were in charge of various categories such as homemaking arts, photography, painting and graphic arts, holiday crafts, Indian arts, wood, metal and glass crafts, clothing, nature crafts, macrame weaving and ceramics, hobbies, collections, and cake decorating. A blacksmith demonstrated his craft, and six rockets were fired into the air by Lou Schmidt, who participated in the hobby division. They were among the 75 entries that were submitted in the fair. The event, which ended with an ice cream social, was proclaimed a huge success by those in charge, but it never continued past that first year. It was too bad because it was a fun event and it focused on the talented people who lived in the valley then.
The first parade in Castle Valley was actually in 1978, when the LDS Church celebrated the 100 anniversary of the Primary Organization. The kids in the valley dressed in pioneer clothing and pulled handcarts and wagons down part of Castle Valley Drive. There was no one to view the parade because they were all in the parade. Other annual events included a Fourth of July Picnic on the La Sal Mountains, the annual property owners association general meeting, and who can forget the annual fireworks at midnight of each new year.
There have been other events that space won’t permit mentioning or have escaped memory, but the people of Castle Valley have enjoyed a lot of neat events during our short existence.