Purple still reigns

Regardless of economic times, visitors and locals filled the purple fields and busy streets for Sequim's Lavender Festival.

Scott Nagel, executive director for the

Lavender Festival, said the crowd size seemed to be similar to last year's total.

"It's probably around 25,000 to 30,000 people so, when you consider the economy, then this is nothing short of amazing," he said.

Vickie Maples, executive director of the Sequim-Dungeness Valley Chamber of Commerce, said nearly 1,250 people, including some from as far away as Australia and China, signed the guest register at the Visitor Information Center.

One of the biggest draws for people is cutting and

making their own lavender bundles at one of the seven U-pick farms.

Abundant lavender products such as bath salts, lotion, ice cream, margaritas and lemonade guaranteed people left with something purple in their bags or stomachs.

"Why do people come back each year?" Nagel asked rhetorically.

"Because the festival is wonderful, but also the people are wonderful," Nagel said.

"We are a main place for people to take a break from the big city life."

The street fair on Fir Street had about 150 vendors and close to 200 booths including food and nonprofit groups at the new Fun on the Field addition.

Nagel said Fun on the Field went well, but people have to adjust to find the new things.

"We need to be out onto the field because the street can get too crowded," he said.

More covered seating will be added to the area in 2010.

Heavy winds on Saturday blew over some umbrellas and tore off some canopy tops, but Nagel said the wind was welcomed.

"The wind helped us," he said.

"If it gets too hot, then it might deter people. The weather was great."

Dust blew into some vendors' tents from the nearby baseball diamond, but sprinklers watered it down.

One theft occurred Friday as vendors were closing for the night.

A bag with cash and a Visa machine were stolen. Nagel said this was the first time he has heard of such a crime at the festival. It is under investigation.

Attendance on Sunday also surprised Nagel. He said Sunday normally is the slowest day, but it turned out to be larger than expected.

"It felt like the biggest Sunday we ever had," he said.

"People on the peninsula are bringing their families on Sundays now."

Nagel and his staff of a dozen workers coordinated more than 250 volunteers to run the festival smoothly at the fair and on farms.

"We are very pleased with the results," said Steve Ragsdale, president of the board for the Sequim Lavender Growers Association.

Ragsdale, co-owner of Sunshine Herb & Lavender Farm, said attendance was up at his farm, too.

Nagel said lavender season doesn't end with the festival and that most farms are open through the summer or year-round.

"It's not like tulips where once you cut them, then you are done," Nagel said.

Maps for local lavender farms are available at the Visitor Information Center, 1192 E. Washington St.,

Sequim, or by going online to or

In the beginning

Sequim Lavender Festival and local political dignitaries welcomed television personality Ciscoe Morris (of "Gardening with Ciscoe" television/radio fame) to open the festivities.

Morris not only helped lead a ceremonial tossing of lavender buds but also hosted a gardening talk that lasted the better part of an hour, dispensing advice about how to grow tomatoes and more.

Morris raved about Sungold tomatoes.

"I used to have straight sideburns before I bit into one," Morris said. "My hair's been curly ever since."

Morris described himself as a plant addict and said that he wants one of each kind in existence.

"I'm three away now," he joked.

Morris co-hosts "Gardening with Ciscoe" with Meeghan Black on KING 5 TV.

And at the end

Tom Heintz smiled at the applause.

Heintz, chef and co-owner of Sauer Kraut German Deli and Bakery with his wife Laurel, brother Dan, and the deli crew were introduced by Nagel after the Lavender Celebration Dinner on Sunday night at John Wayne Marina.

The six-course meal featured culinary lavender from Port Williams Lavender Farm and local foods.

Diner Gail Kershner Riggs, who lives in Tucson, Ariz., and Sequim, said the salmon was perfect, the table decorations were delightful, the food was just the right amount and the presentation was beautiful.

Sauer Kraut Bakery provided handmade focaccia for the appetizers and lavender sugar cookies for dessert. Johnston Farm grew the mixed greens and strawberries. Nash's Organic Produce grew the chard. The cheeses came from Mount Townsend Creamery. Graysmarsh Farm and Heintz Berry Farm provided raspberries and blackberries.

Carolyn Grant and Rita Gillespie, friends from Kalama, added that they appreciated having the printed menu to keep as a souvenir and said the lavender sachet gift was wonderful.

They called the dinner delicious and worth the price.

Barbara and Allan Tyson, of Temecula, Calif., were house-hunting before they came to the dinner. They said the entire festival was very well done.

Nagel told the 50 or so diners that this year's festival was "way beyond expectations" in attendance.

Reach Matthew Nash at Reporters Mike Dashiell and Cathy Van Ruhan also contributed to this report.

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