From itty-bitty little ones to great big giant ones, on August 22, the Fraser Valley will be full of hundreds of thousands of bright, sunny faces staring up at the sky as the first annual Chilliwack Sunflower Festival kicks off.
With blossoms from 17 varieties of sunflowers planted across more than five acres of land, Kate Onos-Gilbert says she hopes the Festival becomes as popular as Tulips of the Valley (formerly the Tulip Festival), which she’s organized for more than a decade.
“This is our first time growing this many sunflowers … so it’s a learning curve for us,” Onos-Gilbert explained as she walked the grounds of the upcoming Festival.
“But our research showed it’s a popular flower in the area and it fits with our crop rotation … so we’re super excited (about the event).”
However, a similar event in Ontario this summer revealed a possible danger in having so many picturesque flowers readily available: the Bogle Seeds farm closed to the public after too many selfie-seekers began destroying their sunflower fields during their search for the perfect Instagram shot.
“We’ve got the perfect property, though,” said Onos-Gilbert. Surrounded by neighbouring farms and a slough, it’s unlikely Chilliwack’s Sunflower Festival will be hit by the same sort of “zombie apocalypse” experienced by the Bogle family.
“Stick to the marked pathways and everything will be fine,” she added.
An occupational therapist by trade, Onos-Gilbert got into the flower business in 1998 when she met her husband, whose family immigrated from Holland and started a tulip-focused greenhouse business in Rosedale. Then in 2006, she co-founded the first Tulip Festival, which ran for in Aggasiz for years before reopening just outside of Chilliwack as Tulips of the Valley in 2017.
|With acres of towering sunflowers, visitors to the Chilliwack Sunflower Festival should be able to see flowers in all stages of flowering. Here, a Mammoth Grey Striped sunflower head is beginning to develop its seeds, which are usually harvested for consumption. (Sarah Gawdin/The Progress)|
And now she’s trying her green thumb at sunflowers.
With a focus on day- and agricultural tourism, Onos-Gilbert says the Chilliwack Sunflower Festival will be a great place to spend an afternoon with the family, friends, or even with your four-legged companion as on-leash dogs are welcome.
“My family and I look forward to creating a new tradition with the Chilliwack Sunflower Festival. This is one of the best opportunities in the region to get up-close to nature and truly unwind for a while, whether with a group or on your own.”
With communities becoming more urban every day, often people don’t have the chance to get out and experience all the different opportunities provided by Mother Nature, which is where Onos-Gilbert says the Chilliwack Sunflower Festival comes in.
“The majority of our (Tulip Festival) visitors come from the city,” Onos-Gilbert explained. “They love being able to go out for a day and enjoy the (area) around them.”
Although they’re not fully in bloom yet, Onos-Gilbert says by Festival opening, the property will be aglow with sunflowers of all different colours and heights.
“Our show garden will have all different colours and blossom heads … and there will be all kinds of photo ops,” explained the Festival organizer as she was dwarfed by an 11-foot giant Mammoth Grey Striped sunflower.
“We’ll also have Dwarf Sunspots, which are only about two-feet high but have the same size head as the Mammoths.”
In addition to the just-for-looking sunflowers, Onos-Gilbert says the Festival also has a large you-pick sunflower garden, and there will also be about 20 acres of hops vines to stroll through, swing sets, lawn games, and on the weekends, the Rotary Club of Chilliwack’s train will offer by-donation rides through the fields.
Running every day from Aug. 22 to Sept. 16, The Chilliwack Sunflower Festival hours are as follows: Monday – Thursday from 10 a.m. to sunset, and Friday – Sunday from 30 minutes before sunrise to sunset.
For directions, complete ticket pricing, and more information, please visit ChilliwackSunflowerFest.com.