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GUTS 2023: Creatives Carving for a Cause | Crafted

By Julia Funderburk

There’s Art in the Orange

The AvidXchange Music Factory is quiet now. But soon, a different kind of music will fill the space. Guitars will be swapped for carving knives. Drums, for power tools. Pumpkin remnants will fly as the chaotic, whirring hum of drills and saws occurs against a backdrop of orange. Lots of orange.

After four years of change and growth, GUTS makes its exciting, long-awaited return to the Music Factory on Saturday, October 21, 2023. For the eleventh year, Charlotte’s best creatives will come together in the city’s one-of-a-kind pumpkin carving contest that celebrates artistry and raises funds for an important cause. We'll reunite with friends we haven’t seen in a while, build new relationships and experience the talent and quirkiness of GUTS together. It might not look like much has changed, but we have a feeling this year is going to be extra special. We can’t wait to be back.

A GUTS Homecoming

While many reasons contribute to GUTS’ return, one stands above the rest.

When will GUTS be back? Our agency has the BEST idea. Charlotte just isn’t the same without GUTS.

Over ten years, the competition became familiar to local agencies, teams and individuals who participated, and to those who watched. It was a customary part of their year. Ideas were top secret. October was their favorite month. GUTS was something they looked forward to — for the community, the competitiveness, the carving. When it went away, largely out of health and safety concerns brought on by the pandemic, the event was missed by all.

As the world slowly regained a sense of normalcy and we contemplated bringing the competition back, we weren’t sure if there was interest in GUTS. Maybe our loyal carvers hung up their tools for good. Or maybe, within the city’s ever-changing creative scene, GUTS didn’t hold the same weight in conversations or schedules as it once did.

The loud, collective voice of longing from our carvers, spectators and supporters helped ignite its comeback. They reminded us that GUTS always has a place in Charlotte.

    The Ultimate Carving Challenge

    As the third Saturday in October inches closer, plans are underway to transform the Music Factory’s intimate main stage into a community-wide pumpkin carving contest. At its center, carvers are the spectacle. With no limits to what can be carved in 90 minutes, each table puts its own spin on creativity, drawing crowds with each passing minute as pumpkins transform into art.

    When the clock starts, the carvers’ hands will move swiftly, furiously, delicately as if each carving motion was rehearsed. There’s no room for error — and no time for it either. Teams work in diligent harmony. Individuals combine a methodical approach with skilled technique. All carvers are careful not to let a second go to waste.

    For a complete list of carving rules and requirements, please click here.

    Spectators are welcome to meander through the tables and watch the artistry up close or explore what the perimeter of the space has to offer. This year, GUTS features a temporary tattoo station, a Halloween-themed photo booth and a silent auction for bidding on fan-favorite pumpkins. If you’re looking for something to sip on during the action, be sure to stop by the bar for a glass of wine or a pint of local craft beer.

    GUTS will follow this schedule:

    • 1:15 pm – Carvers arrive, check in and set up their stations.
    • 2:00 pm – Guests arrive, and carving begins! 90 minutes are on the clock. Spectators can cast their “People’s Choice” vote at any time.
    • 3:30 pm – Carving ends; stations are prepped for final judging.
    • 3:45 pm – The silent auction opens for bidding as judges make their rounds and score entries.
    • 4:00 pm – Judging and “People’s Choice” voting ends.
    • 4:15 pm – Silent auction ends.
    • 4:30 pm – Winners are announced!
    • 5:00 pm – After-party begins! Location: La Unica Bar and Grill at AvidXchange Music Factory.

    Time will disappear too quickly for the carvers, prompting an involuntary rise in concentration and competitive spirit. They’ll move fast to add remaining details, the energy from each table oscillating between intense and hopeful and nervous as pumpkins take the shape of faces, animals and familiar characters. During the final stretch, the individuals and teams want nothing more than to win 1st place in their respective categories.

    But, when the emcee calls time and carvers step away from their tables, the intensity disappears. Teams and individuals inspect the other pumpkins as they try not to slip on the guts-covered floor. They laugh about what they could’ve done better. They discuss ideas for next year’s competition. Most of all, though, at the very core of the competition, they want to know how much money has been raised thus far to support a deserving beneficiary.

    The Charlotte community shows its true power when the city’s best creatives use their talents to give back and help others.

    Rob Hawse

    Getting Back to Giving Back

    The strongest part of GUTS’ identity has remained the same since the event’s inception: sharing the support we receive from the city and its tight-knit creative community with those who need it most. This year, we rally around a new cause with the opportunity to make an impact in our backyard.

    Proceeds raised from donations, ticket sales, a 50-50 raffle and carver registration fees will benefit A Child’s Place, the specialized case management service for families and children experiencing homelessness in Charlotte, NC. When you support GUTS by carving, spectating, volunteering or through sponsorship, you help more than 4,000 homeless students in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools access fundamental resources, engage in healthy and supportive relationships and increase their self-sufficiency. One afternoon of togetherness — the culmination of months of behind-the-scenes manpower and collaboration — makes a notable difference for children in need.

    A Contest You Can't Miss

    If you ask 100 different people for their favorite GUTS memory, you’ll get 100 different answers. Each will be told with a smile, with excitement, with fondness for what the event means to them. But there’s a common theme among the perspectives, too: GUTS has a place for everyone. All are welcome and encouraged to participate in the event. Whether it’s your first trip or your eleventh, we can’t wait to see you.


    As we finally continue writing our story of talent, triumph and community, we recognize that it wouldn’t be possible without the help of our volunteers and sponsors. We extend gratitude and thanks to AvidXchange Music Factory, Loftin & Co. Printers, AIGA, AAF Charlotte, John Street Graphics, La Unica Bar and Grill, Bar Athletes and Small Bar for their support as we work together to make GUTS’ return better than ever.


    Carver registration and event tickets are now LIVE! Please visit gutscharlotte.com for more information.

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