Kudzu Kapers 2007 was held on April 21 at Magnolia Street Depot in downtown Spartanburg, South Carolina. Spartanburg Mayor Bill Barnet issued a proclamation in honor of the event, and the Spartanburg Herald-Journal publicized it. The Coalition thanks the city of Spartanburg for its assistance, especially Jules Bryant, Executive Director of the Spartanburg Convention and Visitors Bureau. We also thank Little River Roasting Company and owner Gervais Hollowell, the City of Spartanburg, Hub City Writers, and Spartanburg Men's Garden Club, for providing the many door prizes that we gave away during Kudzu Kapers.

The photographs that follow document some events that took place at Kudzu Kapers 2007.

Coalition volunteers prepare kudzu "eggs", which are kudzu crowns painted by Terasa Gaddy's students at Chapman High School, and Robin Parson's and Steve Eargly's students at Spartanburg High School. The eggs were used in an egg-hunt for students.

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Another use for "eggs" was to toss them at targets (left), as demonstrated by Jules Bryant (right).

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As a variation of this game, "tails" (kudzu vines) are left on the "eggs", and the eggs are swung by their tails and released towards long-distance targets. Mayor Bill Barnet (far right in left photograph) first watches a pro to see how it's done, and then tries his luck (right).

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Another student takes a swing at it (left), while other students "sign in" for door prizes, and learn about the day's events. These students wear safety vests to reflect their safety practices during actual work in the kudzu patch.

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The Coalition displayed information on its activities and accomplishments, and provided free literature for visitors to take home.

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Special guests for Kudzu Kapers were (left to right) author Juanitta Baldwin (Tennessee), artist and storyteller Nancy Basket (South Carolina), and "Kudzu Queen" Edith Edwards (Kudzu Cow Farm, Rutherfordton, North Carolina). Edith is wearing what was formerly a kudzu basket, but is now a stylish hat!

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Mayor Bill Barnet began formal proceedings held indoors by reading a Spartanburg city proclamation making it Kudzu Awareness Day. Thanks Mayor! Each of the three guest speakers (see above) then explained their particular interest in kudzu. A common theme was finding uses for kudzu in art and commerce, thereby turning a pest into an asset. Everyone then went outdoors for more fun, and to meet and speak with these three talented individuals.

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The Mayor (left), and other visitors, sample Edith's deep-fried kudzu leaves. She brought leaves with her from North Carolina on ice to keep them fresh, and dipped them into tempura before dropping them into hot oil. Folks reported they tasted like potato chips. Edith discussed the health benefits of different parts of the plant.

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Edith and her husband Henry credit kudzu with saving their dairy business during a severe drought when traditional forage for their cows was scarce. Henry developed a way to harvest and bale kudzu as a fodder substitute. They also sell their bales. This story, and interesting facts about the nutritional value of kudzu, was documented on Edith's display boards.

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Coalition co-founder Newt Hardie (in red safety vest) chats with Nancy Basket (seated). Nancy brought along some of the kudzu crafts she makes and sells, including baskets, soaps, jellies, and kudzu paper designs illustrating traditional Cherokee stories. She demonstrated how to split kudzu vines and pull them into long lengths of fibrous strips for weaving baskets or textiles.

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Also on display were student entries in the Baldwin Kudzu Art & Writing Contests, with cash awards provided by Juanitta Baldwin. This year students from grades 7 through 12 were eligible to submit entries. The art entries display is shown in the photograph below. Visitors were also free to read the writing submissions on display.

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Next on the schedule was the announcement and presentation of contest awards, with Juanitta Baldwin presenting cash prizes to winners. Juanitta awarded a total of $1,000, which was given in amounts of $250, $150, and $100, for first, second, and third prizes, respectively. We are very grateful for her generosity, which Juanitta hopes will stimulate more creative thinking about kudzu.

All submissions were judged by artists-in-residence at the Hub City Writers Project of Spartanburg, South Carolina, and director Betsy Teter (far right in next photograph) was present to announce the winners.

Betsy is holding the Third Place winner of the Art Contest, as Juanitta gives the prize to teacher Robin Parsons on behalf of winner Crystal Cooks, a student at Spartanburg High School. Below are "mug shots" of Crystal's work: A painted kudzu crown and vine titled "Wood Pecker" — for obvious reasons!

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Carolyn Groves accepts the award from Juanitta on behalf of Second Prize winner Reid Parker. Reid is a student at Spartanburg Day School, and the award is for his work titled "Taking Over". It is a black-ink and green-marker drawing of kudzu represented as a spirit, who infests a city. Reid's teacher is Nancy Corbin.

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First Prize winner William Neeley, a student at Dorman High School, created a batik-like image with Noah's Ark surrounded by a sea of kudzu. It is titled "Two by Two". His teacher, David Benson, accepts the award on William's behalf. David Benson is Chair of the Art Department.

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Next were awards for the Writing Contest. Third Place went to student Arran Setro from Dorman High School for Kudzu Consumer Products (293 KB PDF). Arran believes that there is "money growing on kudzu" because kudzu can be made into many useful products, which he describes. He also wonders whether kudzu could be a source of natural rubber. David Benson accepted the award on Arran's behalf. Arran's teacher is Katie Johns.

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Second Place went to student Lauren Taylor of Chapman High School for The Plant That Ate The South (126 KB PDF). Lauren's entry is a free verse poem that, among other things, interprets kudzu's agressive growth on our continent as an attempt to return from whence it came (Japan). She also suggests that somewhere there must be "a starving land of desert and dust" that "could be saved" by kudzu's "unwanted waste." Lauren's teacher is Amy Ballentine.

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First Place went to student Arden Cone of Oakbrook Preparatory School for Extra! Extra!! Silent Killer Plagues Greater Spartanburg Area (1.2 MB PDF). Arden's amusing summary of kudzu's history in the U.S., as reported in the fictional publication "Spartanburg Kudzu Report", contains interviews with such characters as Sgt. DeVine, Mr. Rich Legume, Dr. Woody Halt, Dawn Weaver, and Drew Parchment. It includes a mug shot of kudzu, and an ad from "Spartanburg Hardware", a store that sells tools for the removal of kudzu "For the lowest prices". Coalition volunteer Barbara Daniels accepts the award on behalf of Arden, whose teacher is Mary Nichols.

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Newt Hardie presented special awards to schools whose students made significant contributions combating kudzu during 2007. Each school was presented with a plaque describing the award, with photographs showing students in action. They were presented, in no particular order, as follows.

Broome High School: "In recognition and appreciation for your work in controlling kudzu without herbicides on the BHS Campus & Peter's Creek Preserve". The award was accepted by Broome teacher and advisor Pam Peeler, as presented by Coalition volunteer Steve Patton on April 28.

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Spartanburg High School: "In recognition and appreciation for your work in controlling kudzu without herbicides on the Rail Trail." The award was accepted by teacher Robin Parsons.

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Spartanburg Day School: "In recognition and appreciation for your work in controlling kudzu without herbicides at Peter's Creek Preserve and Skylyn Drive." The award was accepted by Marcel Gauthier, Head of the Upper School (right), and teacher Allyn Steele (center), who is a Coalition volunteer.

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Chapman High School: "In recognition and appreciation for your work in controlling kudzu without herbicides on Compton Bridge Road." The award was accepted by student Lauren Taylor. Coalition volunteer Paul Savko is also pictured.

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The Kudzu Crown Award: A special individual student award went to Rob Jordan, student at Spartanburg Day School. "In recognition and appreciation for your outstanding leadership as a student activist in controlling kudzu without herbicides."

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One of the last demonstrations of the day was a challenge made to Spartanburg Day School students to excavate and remove a large kudzu crown on the Depot property. The idea was to show Kudzu Kapers visitors how large crowns are removed. The students succeeded admirably, and removed the monster crown shown below. The hat is shown for scale. Way to go, guys, a great way to end Kudzu Kapers 2007!

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