Chicago’s Sandy Fontana could be Sequim lavender’s biggest fan.
She, like thousands of others, made the trek for Sequim Lavender Weekend from July 15-17, to take in the food, music, and of course the popular plant. The weekend included the Sequim Lavender Growers Association’s 20th Sequim Lavender Festival, individual festivals from the Sequim Lavender Farmers Association, independent farmers and events and a laundry list of activities.
Fontana said her first time fully experiencing Sequim lavender came last year in a whirlwind where she visited 11 farms in one day. She vowed to come back the next year and spread the experience over a week, which she and her husband John Trudeau did.
While it may not have been Fontana’s first go-around, some farmers experienced the weekend for the first time as owners.
Jeanette Bockelie of Kitty B’s Lavender Farm, formerly Oliver’s, said the experience was very gratifying being on the Lavender Festival tour and that visitors thanked them profusely for opening up the farm.
“I loved to see their smiles,” she said.
Bockelie said she didn’t know what to expect and was grateful for her 16 volunteers because she “needed everyone one of them.”
“I think I did OK and next year will be a lot better,” she said.
Jill Pinder, owner of Earth Muffin Lavender, said she had a fantastic first year on the tour.
“We had a steady flow of people all three days,” she said. “The Sunday group was more relaxed.”
Pinder said visitors enjoyed talking to farmers because sometimes at bigger farms “they don’t always get a chance to speak to a farmer.”
Looking ahead, she plans to continue online lavender sales, plant more lavender and open sooner in 2017. Her hope is to have a little shop open next year too.
Mary Jendrucko, executive director of the Sequim Lavender Festival, said attendance at the farms and Street Fair on Fir Street was robust all weekend and that its 20th year was one of the best ever.
“Vendors are happy and already asking if they can have the same spots next year,” she said.
“We are especially proud that the Sequim Lavender Festival, the City of Sequim and the surrounding communities were able to provide a relaxing and affordable getaway for our visitors during some challenging times, facing us both nationwide and worldwide.”
One of Sequim’s original lavender farms, Purple Haze Lavender saw a big return on its second Purple Haze Daze event from the weekend.
Previously, owner Mike Reichner said he invested more than ever into the event for music, and general manager Vickie Oen confirmed it was worth it.
“We had the best weekend ever since the recession,” she said.
“It’s the busiest Sunday we’ve ever had. It’s the busiest summer we’ve ever had, for sure.”
Oen attributes the good fortune to new promotions and good weather.
“The weather hasn’t been extreme and people were happy and having fun,” she said. “It’s the most fun we’ve ever had.”
They plan to continue Purple Haze Daze next year too.
Paul Schiefen, owner of Jardin du Soleil Lavender Farm, said they had a great weekend too.
“Everyone is still recovering but (attendance) is definitely up from last year,” he said.
“The weather worked out great.”
His farm partnered with Olympic Lavender Heritage Farm to offer joint ticket sales, and Schiefen said it went well and they will likely do it again next year.
He said the Farmers Association’s goal remains the same though.
“We’ll still promote the weekend but our goal is to be a destination all summer,” Schiefen said.
He and his wife Jordan continue to offer live music on Friday nights at the farm as part of the Jungible Summer Sessions for three more weeks.
Outside of the lavender farmers, Shelli Robb-Kahler, executive director, Sequim-Dungeness Valley Chamber of Commerce, said the Visitor Information Center had been quite busy the weeks preceding and during the three-day event providing information about Lavender Weekend to visitors.
“This year there were far more events in the evening, which was a request of attendees in the past, so much as it was hard for participants to decide which event to take in,” she said.
“The Visitor Information Center saw an increase in visitors this year on Sunday as compared to years past and some of the farms reported the same.”
“It was a terrific weekend and 20th celebration of the annual event which appeared to run very smoothly and of course is a wonderful boost to our local economy,” Robb-Kahler added.
For the City of Sequim, Barb Hanna, communications and marketing director, said, “Everything went really smooth. There were a lot of people in town and a lot of activity everywhere. Everyone seemed to be having a great time.”
Photographer Jim Wood captures Captain Crystal Stout of the Dream Catcher Balloon Program on Saturday at Jardin du Soleil standing against her balloon on a windy day. Stout split time with the balloon designed for people with special needs at Jardin and Olympic Lavender Heritage Farm. See more of Wood’s photos at www.jimwoodphotos.com