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RANGELY I Rangely’s first Harvest Bowls Festival drew approximately 200 people to Rangely Community Gardens on Thursday, netting more than $7,000 for four local non-profit groups and one global relief organization.
Participants gathered in the early evening for a community meal featuring soups made largely from locally harvested meat and garden-grown vegetables. A $25 ticket included diners’ choice of one of hundreds of handmade bowls resting on tables and shelves lining a walkway through the garden’s botanical garden.
Each bowl was unique, from rustic hand-built forms to more traditional wheel-thrown bowls of varying shapes and proportions. A few porcelain bowls scattered among the tables stood in contrast to their red earthenware counterparts. All featured images of vegetables drawn by Parkview Elementary School students.
Carol Morton arrived early to the event with husband David and 17-year-old son Andrew. Her choice, the only blue porcelain bowl on the tables, was immediate and intuitive.
“That’s my favorite color, and I just thought it was beautiful,” she said. David’s selection, an earthenware bowl with bands of slip (a liquid white clay) brushed boldly across its surface, took a bit more time.
“I loved the kids’ drawings on the bowls,” Carol said. “I was a little skeptical about that, honestly, but I really liked them. It still looked very classy … and fit with the theme of everything.”
Over the course of more than four months, artist Julia Davis helped Harvest Bowls creator and local potter Beth Wiley craft more than bowls for the event at the studio they share on Main Street. Wiley said her inspiration for the Harvest Bowls came after digging potatoes last summer at the Rangely Community Gardens with sons Caleb and Zane.
In August, Davis also took garden vegetables into elementary school classrooms and showed students key elements of composition, proportion and line drawing.
“It was fun, and the children’s artwork is so inspiring,” Wiley said of the process, which involved sorting through hundreds of drawings, scanning and digitally refining them, and applying them as decals on the bowls. “I love that the same carrot, or corn cob, or broccoli, could be drawn by preschoolers or second- or fifth-graders and be seen in so many different ways. Their drawings on the bowls look naïve and whimsical, but sophisticated at the same time.”
“It was just such a beautiful evening and the setting was so nice,” Carol Morton said. “There was shade from the trees, with the sunlight coming through … the event was also well-organized. It seemed peaceful and calm, like (the volunteers) were ready for us. So we just ended up visiting with people.”
Temperatures in the mid-70s and music by acoustic group Fiscus and Gravy kept Rangely residents and a few Meeker attendees mingling throughout the festival, which featured children’s activities, a photo booth and a dessert “bid and buy” tent.
Participants browsed among individual and family garden plots, made festive by harvest-themed shepherd’s hooks and floral sprays, and stopped by information tables about benefiting organizations New Eden Pregnancy Care Services, Giant Step Preschool and Childcare Center, the Rangely Moms Group, the Community Gardens, and global relief group Help One Now.
“The event for us was really about letting people know the gardens are here,” said Community Gardens president Lisa Hatch, who organized a vegetable hunt in which attendees dug or picked produce from the community plot. “Most people who attended the festival hadn’t been to the gardens before, so it was great to have them in the space to see what it was like.”
Some visitors didn’t linger but picked out their bowls and enjoyed a quick ladle of soup before heading to the Rangely High School chili dinner and bonfire at the recreation center. Vouchers available at the festival transferred a portion of the ticket cost to the high school’s annual event, which funds sophomore class activities.
Student Council adviser and organizer Crandal Mergelman said the school received several vouchers and that a strong turnout at the chili dinner event indicated that both fundraisers were well-supported.
Of the 25 Harvest Bowls sponsors, many contributed not only financially but helped bring tangible aspects of the event together. Rangely District Hospital and Pretty Bras for Nursing Moms made initial donations for supplies, including clay, glaze and paper products, while Giovanni’s Italian Grill helped coordinate meal logistics, from supplies to food orders to serving needs. Wildlife Expressions Taxidermy donated meat in addition to financial support and Rangely True Value donated tickets for Eagle Crest residents to attend.
Along with Colorado Northwestern Community College sponsoring the event, CNCC Learning Community students refereed sack races, painted faces, and colored with the children throughout the evening.
“We loved seeing the little kids light up and how excited they were,” said CNCC sophomore Learning Community student Haley Schildgen, who helped plan and carry out the children’s activities. “They were always asking questions and laughing. I didn’t hear anybody crying that day.”
The students also helped decorate the bowls, which meant something when it came time for them to choose their own.
“It was kind of nice going into the festival and seeing bowls we’d helped with, or picking out bowls that were made by another person,” Schildgen said. “It was a nice experience to take away something so personal.”
In addition to the sponsors, more than 60 local individuals, businesses, and organizations contributed volunteer time or in-kind donations, from baking and serving to providing decorations and seating.
“I loved the whole overall idea of the event and the ladies who were the organizers,” Giovanni’s Italian Grill co-owner Sandy Payne said. “Right before I heard about the Harvest Bowls, I had been doing some research on fundraising ideas and had come across this similar idea. So when I saw what Beth was planning, I was really excited and wanted to be a part of it.
“It’s great to see so many different groups working together on one project,” she said. “I think it’s a great example of how we can be stronger together than apart.”
For more on the the bowls and event or to learn more about the organizations the Harvest Bowls Festival benefited, visit www.elizabethrobinsonstudio.com.