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Sequim Lavender Festival right around the corner

In six short weeks, throngs of visitors and those of us who call Sequim home will stroll through fields of aromatic lavender, browse a bustling street fair and enjoy everything - well, lavender.

The purple plant takes center stage at the 14th annual Sequim Lavender Festival July 16-18, amid a barrage of music, food and fun. And, according to organizers, this year's festival promises to be the best ever.

"As we grow we get more popular," Scott Nagel, Sequim Lavender Festival executive director, said, who added the festival has grown in attendance each year. Last year, he said, ticket sales were up 10 percent.

This will be the seventh lavender festival under Nagel's direction and as far as he is concerned, it's a one-of-a-kind event, one that draws thousands of visitors from around the world.

As the former director of Seattle's Northwest Folklife Festival, Nagel speaks from experience. He has been involved in festivals, events and tourism for more than

30 years and as such, said it

is a privilege to coordinate the Sequim Lavender Festival.

"As far as festivals go," Nagel said, "part of the draw of the lavender festival is that the people of Sequim work hard to make this a welcome place for visitors and to show Sequim as a very special place."

Indeed, when folks travel to the North Olympic Peninsula, and especially the Sequim area, it is often an escape from the busy city life.

"We (who live here) forget how beautiful and peaceful it is," Nagel said.

Lavender Capital

When it comes to lavender, Sequim has the distinction of being recognized as the Lavender Capital of North America(r), a registered trademark name. The three-day festival is the oldest and largest lavender event in North America and has been voted one of the top 100 events by the American Bus Association.

With its popularity, upwards of 30,000 lavender-lovers will pour into Sequim during the festival. However, with six farms on tour and free shuttle buses providing transportation between the street fair and the farms, there's plenty of elbowroom.

Yes, organizers admit, U.S. Highway 101 coming into town from the east can include traffic jams, especially on Friday and Sunday afternoons, but overall backups are at a minimum.

"People can drive into any of the farms any time," Nagel said. "And the shuttle buses make it much better than before we had them."

The crowds do trouble some Sequimites, but the bottom line is this is an economic boon for the area. All hotels within a 30-mile radius are full - many make reservations as they leave for the next year - and restaurants, supermarkets and stores are busy as well.

"Again, everyone in Sequim goes out of their way to make people feel welcome," Nagel said.

The six farms on tour include Cedarbrook Lavender & Herb Farm, Jardin du Soleil Lavender, Lost Mountain Lavender, Olympic Lavender Farm, Purple Haze Lavender, Ltd., and Sunshine Herb & Lavender Farm.

Each farm is distinctive and reflects the vision of its owner. During the festival, farmers will share their techniques for cultivating, harvesting, drying and using lavender.

And if there is a theme, this year's would be culinary lavender; in other words, how to cook with and eat the herb. At Olympic Lavender Farm, for instance, Seattle author Kathy Gehrt will offer cooking demonstrations using recipes from her newest book.

Lavender central

The street fair, known as "lavender central" offers lavender products by members of the Sequim Lavender Growers Association, and 150 juried arts and crafts booths. Fun on the Field features more than 20 nonprofit organizations with family activities, such as horse rides, a stage and covered seating .

An addition to the festival is a Saturday night concert at the outdoor amphitheater at the James Center featuring the Beatles tribute band Crème Tangerine. Best part, it's free and the shuttle buses will take concert-goers to the amphitheater.

With the majority of the festival taking place outdoors, the big question: will it be nice? The Sequim-Dungeness Valley as an ideal microclimate for growing lavender, even with the cool temperatures of late. Look closely and the purple flowers are beginning to show buds. As for the festival, the weather almost always cooperates.

Coming from Seattle, Nagel was a bit worried when he arrived to take over the Sequim Lavender Festival.

"My first year here people told me it never rained," he recalled. "And that first year it poured."

Nonetheless, a warm shower doesn't seem to dampen the spirits of all those lavender lovers.

For more information regarding the Sequim Lavender Festival, visit www.lavenderfestival.com or call 877-681-3035.

Mary Powell is the media director for the Sequim Lavender Festival and can be reached at media@lavenderfestival.com





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