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Festival flash-forward

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It's never too early to think purple in Sequim.

Lavender growers are working feverishly to be ready for the 14th annual Sequim Lavender Festival, July 16-18.

With tens of thousands of visitors, the long days pay off for the six farms on the festival tour - Cedarbrook Lavender & Herb Farm, Jardin du Soleil Lavender, Lost Mountain Lavender, Olympic Lavender Farm, Purple Haze Lavender, Ltd., and Sunshine Herb & Lavender Farm.

"It's been a lot like Fred Flintstone," said Gary Stachurski, co-owner of Cedarbrook Lavender.

"We've been beating feet."

He and his wife, Marcella, are going into their sixth lavender festival.

"It's invigorating and exciting," Gary Stachurski said.

"By the end of Sunday, you're tired, but it's worth it."

Picking a makeover

The Stachurkis said early-sprouting weeds led to more pulling.

"We're in our third weeding because of a mild winter," Marcella Stachurski said.

"We should be in the middle of our first."

Stachurski said pulling weeds makes lavender harvesting easier and more attractive for visitors.

Barbara Hanna, co-owner and operator of Lost Mountain Lavender for seven years, said her weeds haven't been as bad.

"We're starting the big push for landscaping and weeding now," Hanna said.

"It's amazing what will pop out of an established plant."

Olympic Lavender Farm owners Bruce Liebsch and Mary Borland-Liebsch, who married on Feb. 13, are on their second run of pulling weeds.

This lavender season is Borland-Liebsch's 13th festival and Liebsch's first as a farmer.

Liebsch moved from St. Louis, Mo., 10 years ago into a Sequim house that had no grass. Now that he's at the lavender farm, with grass between the bushes, it's a dramatic change, but he says his favorite part is mowing.

"Being out there for six hours is relaxing," Liebsch said. "What amazes me is how many plants there are here."

Fine and dandy

Farm owners say lavender plants are on track for the busy tourist summer.

"Some plants have purple already, even though they need another eight to 10 inches to grow," Marcella Stachurski said.

"It's all on track and it's going to look pretty."

The Stachurskis said once lavender plants are established, care and grooming mostly takes place in the fall and their more than 100 varieties of lavender are planted to accommodate rain year-round.

At Olympic Lavender Farm, Borland-Liebsch said the plants are right-on in quality but might bloom earlier than usual.

"I hope we don't have to harvest it until after the festival," she said.

Hanna said that at Lost Mountain Lavender plants aren't harvested until a week after the festival due to their location near the foothills.

Blooming traditions

For many of the farm owners, being a part of the festival preceded them.

Cedarbrook Lavender & Herb Farm - the oldest herb farm in Washington - was one of the original farms on the tour and of Sequim Lavender Growers Association.

"We do it to continue the traditions," Marcella Stachurski said.

The Stachurskis say their visitors are a good mixture of enthusiasts.

"It's a good following of generations with people coming since the 1960s to today," Marcella Stachurski said.

Each farm gets visitors from around the world.

Borland-Liebsch said she's met people on her farm from Australia, China, India, Japan and more.

Farmers enjoy the diversity the festival brings to Sequim.

"It's rewarding to have the mix of first-timers and people who come year after year," Hanna said.

"This is definitely a people-oriented business. That's what keeps me energized."

Each year, farms add new vendors, music and events such as cooking and gardening demonstrations.

They also spend time making new and popular products like soaps, food mixes, tea mixtures, stuffed animals and more.

Tickets for the Sequim Lavender Festival can be found at www.lavenderfestival.com. Discount coupons are available in the Sequim Gazette through July 14, when the official Lavender Festival program runs in the paper.



Reach Matthew Nash at mnash@sequimgazette.com.

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