Taken at the 2010 Farm Festival, Claremont, NC, USA
Margaret “Sparky” Sparkman was well known as the “Flower Lady” before she became known as the “Gourd Lady.” She was an active member of the N. C. State Garden Club and of the Out to Grow Garden Club of Claremont, NC for 42 years. She is a nationally accredited flower show judge with a lifetime membership. She and her husband – Clyde – grew an acre of flowers as a hobby. She had her own roadside beautification project of a 1/2 acre of Red President Canna Lilies.
Margaret contributed flowers to her church 20 Sundays during the summer and took flowers to shut-ins every week. After realizing that flower arrangements did not stay pretty very long, she decided to grow gourds and to make “Gourd Critters” to take to shut-ins, something that would be more permanent. So, her gourd hobby started from a Garden Club project. The shut-ins would show their “Gourd Critters” to everyone who visited. It gave them something to think and talk about.
In 1969, she was appointed by NC Governor Bob Scott to be on the Governor’s Beautification Committee and served 4 years. She was selected to appear in the 1970 edition of “Personalities of the South” in recognition of her outstanding service to community and state.
In 1970, she presented to Jim Graham, NC Commissioner of Agriculture, her gourd creation of Casey the Cardinal, the NC State Fair symbol. He wanted something grown on the farm and hand made.
In 1971 she co-authored with Ester Vera Mae Hamel the book “Creativity with Gourds.” In 1973 she presented the mascot of Carowinds, Ringo the Raccoon, to Mr. Pat Hall, owner of Carowinds, to be used in their lodge building.
She has given either Gourd Democrat Donkeys or Gourd Republican Elephants to the last 8 presidents.
She taught gourd art at the Adrian L. Shuford YMCA in Conover, NC and has worked there for 33 years.
She has appeared on the Carolina Traveler TV Show, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, the Carolina Camera show, and many other talk shows. She has been featured in the “Country Woman’s Magazine”, “Southern Living”, “Our State” magazine, and many newspapers.
Some of Sparky’s work is in the Catawba County Museum of History, the North Carolina History Museum in Raleigh, and even in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC.
Margaret Sparkman has exhibited her crafts 17 times at the NC State Fair in Raleigh, 46 times at the Southern Spring Show, and 40 times at the Southern Christmas Show at the Merchandise Mart in Charlotte.
In the Science Section of the game “American Trivia Challenge – North Carolina Style” the following question is asked – "Who in NC is known as “The Gourd Lady” and where does she live – Answer – Margaret Henry Sparkman of Conover, NC