BOTETOURT COUNTY, Va. – The Roanoke Valley is known for its festivals and a fairly new one has rooted its place as a must-see in the area. The Beaver Dam Farm Sunflower Festival has grown from just a small idea to one that draws tens of thousands of people in.
This year’s festival features 620,000 sunflowers that are still just a few inches tall right now, but in just a few weeks they will be the epicenter of attention in the area.
Like the seeds being planted for sunflowers, the Beaver Dam Farm Sunflower Festival started by planting a small idea.
Candace Monaghan said they’ve grown and raised a number of crops and animals on their farm over the years, but her dad decided to grow sunflowers because he liked the way they looked. They harvested them for animal feed but Monaghan had visions of something much bigger.
“I said people pay to get in to see corn and walk through corn, we should try to have people pay to see sunflowers and that’s kind of where it all started and we ended up with about 1,600 people that first year,” Monaghan said.
Now coming up on its sixth year, the festival is in perpetual bloom and is a staple in the area. Monaghan said visitors came from 22 states to see the flowers and shop from the vendors last year, and this year they expect to break their record of 20,000 people.
“You know we’re thrilled, we never knew that it would grow as it has and we try to add different things each year, we try to keep our costs low for everybody to be able to enjoy it,” Monaghan said.
Just a few minutes away at The Best Place Antiques in Buchanan, more people means more sales. Vendors here said the area festivals are great for business and the sunflowers festival is a perfect addition.
“We’re just another pedal in their sunflower, or they’re another stem to our tree or whatever it is but we all kind of work together, it’s really good, it’s good for the town,” store vendor Cindi Lyons said.
New this year is an app for visitors. In addition to providing information about the family and the farm, it also allows people to be interactive in learning about the plants and the creatures that inhabit them.
“It started being based around all the insects that the sunflowers attract. So if somebody comes out and they see an insect they can look at this app and say oh that’s a grasshopper, well then they can read what the grasshopper does to either help or hurt the sunflower,” Monaghan said.
This year’s crop still has a few more weeks to go before they reach their peak. And after the year we’ve had, Monaghan said the flowers maybe even more important than ever.
“How can you be sad when you walk up to something like that and you see a sea of yellow that large of 21 acres and we’re going to have some colors thrown in there this year too but you just can’t be sad at a place like this,” Monaghan said.