Reviving community through the Gourd Festival - The Trail Blazer: Life & Arts

Reviving community through the Gourd Festival

Hunter Boggs & Makayla Holder | Posted: Sunday, October 6, 2019 9:46 am

In a community formerly centered around a brickyard, Lloyd Dean started the Gourd Festival and Trade Day to promote community engagement.

Dean, a member of the Haldeman Community Center Board, described the event itself as part of a greater effort by community members to revive the community that’s been on the decline since the 1950’s following the closure of the Kentucky Firebrick Company. 

“They worked 400 men. They’d get on the train in Morehead, and they’d come up here and trade,” Dean said. “We had barber shops, restaurants, the whole thing. It closed down in 1950, and so everything sort of went downhill, and we’re trying to bring it back to what it used to be.”

The event was started by Dean in 1983 at Haye’s Crossing. Saturday marked their 36 year. 

Gourd Festival
Attendees examine a painted gourd during the Haldeman Gourd Festival on Sunday, October 5, 2019, at the Haldeman Community Center in Rowan County, Ky. Photo by Hunter Boggs / The Trail Blazer Hunter Boggs

 “I was in the sorghum festival, the one in West Liberty, and I thought, ‘well, we need something in our community,’" said Dean, a Morehead State University graduate. “So, I talked with my cousin who owned a store and restaurant in Haye’s Crossing. They agreed to it, and we got together, and that’s how it began.” 

The event was moved to the community center, a former gymnasium, after the adjacent school building burned down in 2007. Dean and 14 other individuals formed a corporation, raised money and purchased it. 

Dean said he has a personal connection to the community and the gymnasium that the community center now occupies. 

“This is my home. I went to school here,” Dean said. “I still lived here after I was a counselor in Felicity, Ohio for four years. In Carter County, I was over there seven years, 22 years at Rowan County High, and this is my home. I want to make it the best that we can.” 

Gourd Festival
Susan Riggsby shows her current favorite of her painted gourds during the Haldeman Gourd Festival on Sunday, October 5, 2019, at the Haldeman Community Center in Rowan County, Ky. Photo by Hunter Boggs / The Trail Blazer Hunter Boggs

Susan Riggsby said she always had the artistic bug, but never had time due to the constant moving around on active duty during her time in the Air Force. Now that she’s retired, she said that she does a little of everything.

She first started working with gourds as a novelty. It became a passion as she discovered a plethora of ways they can be used in art.

“I saw something online,” said Riggsby. “And it’s like ‘oh, that looks kind of cool, let me try it,’ and the minute you try it, the bug bites and you’re hooked.”

She first came to the gourd festival after being invited by Dean.

Gourd Festival
Susan Riggsby shows one of her gourds during the Haldeman Gourd Festival on Sunday, October 5, 2019, at the Haldeman Community Center in Rowan County, Ky. Photo by Hunter Boggs / The Trail Blazer Hunter Boggs

“I pretty much live right across the street,” Riggsby said. “Lloyd invited me to participate, and I was just new in working with gourds. So, I said okay, and I’ve been coming back ever since.”

Riggsby’s display at the festival included carved and painted gourds, gourd lamps and what she called “thunder gourds” which were gourds that mimic the sound of thunder when shaken. 

“I let the gourd tell me what it wants to be,” Riggsby said. “And that’s what I turn it into.”

Dean stated that the Haldeman Community Center Board is currently vying for a grant from the state to help rebuild Haldeman and add to the community center.

Click below to view a short video. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M7P0D457DjA