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Visitors find their lavender ‘fix’
Third time’s the charm for Sequim Lavender Weekend.
Organizers with the two festivals found the pleasant weather a welcome recovery from two years of wet conditions.
Paul Jendrucko, media relations coordinator for the Sequim Lavender Festival, said everything went gangbusters.
“The weather, the traffic, concert, food. Everything came together perfectly,” he said. “It was probably the best festival in the last five years.”
Across town at the Water Reuse Demonstration Site, Scott Nagel, executive director of the Sequim Lavender Farm Faire, said it was a fantastic year.
“People have found the park and they are realizing it’s a destination site,” he said. “New people are discovering the farm tour, too. Marketing for Lavender Weekend is starting to pay off.”
Both organizations reported that vendors and farms saw increases in attendance and sales from last year.
At the 13 free and paid admission farms, visitors were greeted by lavender ready for harvest. This was the third year for separate events following the groups’ decisions to go different routes — the Sequim Lavender Growers Association continuing the lavender festival and the Sequim Lavender Farmers Association creating the farm fair.
Nagel said the farmers group’s information booths were asked a lot about the split, particularly after a recent Seattle Times article.
“I think we’re done with articles on the split,” he said. “Most people don’t even care.”
Nagel said some of the farms have operated for 17 years but are still gaining new visitors three years into the lavender weekend promotions.
He concedes people will call all lavender events for the entire weekend “Lavender Festival,” but said that’s because it’s an institution after 17 years.
“They are going to continue to call it that,” he said. “It’s going to take years to call it Sequim Lavender Weekend. But however they come to Sequim is fine, though. I don’t care how they heard about it so long as they come back.”
Jendrucko said marketing for the weekend from three different entities, including the City of Sequim, helps.
“The response from patrons has been the same in three years that they’re glad it’s been free,” he said. “They say they are so glad they can bring a carload of people and go to the farms without charge.”
Helping people understand there are two events is only better for them, Nagel said.
“We’ve made great leaps and bounds with that and it shows there’s only more for them to do,” he said. “It just takes a few years for any event to take off just like the lavender festival and the crab festival when they first started.”
Jendrucko said the festival’s street fair attendance was the highest it’s been for a long time. “Sunday was particularly heavy,” he said. “The slowdown in the late afternoons did not occur this year. Shoulder-to-shoulder traffic going down the aisles.”
While heavy foot traffic is a good thing, mild congestion on U.S. Highway 101 didn’t hinder people from their lavender destinations too long. Both events didn’t report any traffic complaints and Jendrucko said travel time from the normally backed-up Blyn area was about 15 minutes into the city.
Nagel said this might be attributed to the fact that so many people were spread out among the many events.
Once in the city, visitors could use the free in-city shuttles, which Vickie Oen, general manager at Purple Haze Lavender, said people were generally happy about.
However, she heard some displeasure that the farmers’ six Heritage Farms on Tour didn’t have shuttle buses this year due to costs and a declining user base.
Oen said only one person she spoke with approved a ticket increase to cover the costs but she was in the minority in the matter.
Jendrucko said the shuttle worked perfectly for the festival as it stopped near the street fair at a few spots.
“That was a major contributory factor in any downtown congestion,” he said.
Maybe next time
As for 2014, Nagel said they have a lot of new ideas to explore particularly with vendors, nonprofits and for family events.
“We have lots of space in the park,” he said. “Our vision was the park was going to be such a great festival. Vendors are saying it’s one of the best festival sites they’ve been to.”
One of Oen’s goals in the coming year is to look into clearer signage in and around the city to alleviate confusion that continues to happen.
At the festival, Jendrucko said nothing is broken so they’ll continue on the same as before.
“The vendors are very happy — many of them already want to put in applications for next year,” he said.
For now, it’s harvest time said Mike Greenhaw, co-owner of Martha Lane Lavender. He and many other farmers will spend the coming weeks cutting and converting lavender into oil and various products for next year.
Look for announcements about the 2014 Sequim Lavender Weekend in the next few months.