Rain didn’t dampen lavender organizers’ spirits this past weekend.
Both the Sequim Lavender Festival and Sequim Lavender Farm Faire directors seemed pleased with their locations and visitors’ feedback despite uncooperative weather.
Scott Nagel, executive director of the farm fair, said farmers and vendors were enthusiastic about the Lavender in the Park event in the Water Reuse Demonstration Park.
“People just loved it for all the obvious reasons,” Nagel said. “Now we have a full year and proper timeline to expand on our success.”
Nagel said that ticket sales for the Farms on Tour were down because of the rain but that vendors understand it was the first year for the event and that rain always is a variable.
Mary Jendrucko, director of the Sequim Lavender Festival, said the Street Fair and Free Farms tour were a success, especially in this economy.
“People who live in Washington find the rain isn’t a big deal to them,” she said. “I just wish it had been sunny for more lavender to be in bloom.”
Terry Stolz, president of the Sequim Lavender Growers Association, said even with rain the Street Fair crowd was comparable to years before and “People’s support was off the chart.”
Both groups said some people still were confused between the free farm tour and the traditional Farms on Tour. Nagel said both the lavender growers and the Sequim Lavender Farmers Association need to find a way to communicate to visitors the difference between the two farm tours to eliminate confusion.
He said the farmers group continues to provide a “Lavender Weekend FAQ’s” on its website and to educate its volunteers on how to communicate about the two events.
“While the small farms are fine, it’s not the same as Purple Haze or Sunshine or Olympic,” Nagel said. He said most people are coming off the reputation of the past festival and they need to know where those farms are.
“What worked out well is that our farms have such a great fan base that many of them come straight to their favorite farm.”
Carmen Ragsdale, co-owner of Sunshine Herb & Lavender Farm, said other than the weather they received nothing but positive feedback. Sunshine is the most eastern farm on the Farms on Tour and many visitors’ first taste of lavender.
Ragsdale said volunteers were well versed in speaking with visitors about the two events.
“I can’t express how appreciative we are,” Ragsdale said. “Everybody jumped on the bandwagon. It was great to see our community supporting the farms.”
Vickie Oen, general manager of Purple Haze Lavender, said attendance was down over the weekend but visitors bought a lot of product. She and other farmers are optimistic about an unusual harvesting season that will stretch through August.
“We haven’t harvested anything,” Oen said. “We’ve never had this late of a season before.”
Barbara Sanford, owner of Blackberry Forest, found an optimistic outlook on the rain.
“Families seemed to have had a better time in the cold and rainy afternoons than after a long day spent in the sun of former years,” she said.
Sue Olson, owner of The Lavender Connection, said she gave away a lot of free bundles to people with military ID and people honked while driving by reading her large banner.
Jendrucko said the lavender growers retooled the festival for its 15th year without ignoring the importance of farms and their founding philosophy of promoting lavender in the Lavender Capital of North America™, educating the public about lavender and offering a relaxing weekend at limited cost.
“In addition, as a nonprofit organization, we were able to provide financial and in-kind support to our neighbors through our ‘Charity Through Commerce Campaign,’” she said. “We’re looking forward to our 16th year. Any kinks, we’ll work it out.”
Nagel said the farmers association plans to continue its event for a second year.
“Our farms are an international tourism destination and that’s what they are here to see,” Nagel said.
Few traffic and criminal incidents registered over the weekend. No lavender-traffic-related accidents were reported.
Sequim Police Chief Bill Dickinson, said most lavender-related problems were parking complaints and lost children and/or parents.
“Traffic was better than usual based on what other officers have told me,” Dickinson said. “Crowds were just excellent and we had very little difficulty with anyone.”
Trooper Krista Hedstrom with the Washington State Patrol said Friday evening traffic was backed up from Sunshine Herb & Lavender Farm or as far as 7 Cedars Casino in Blyn.
Saturday was much better and Sunday traffic was slow eastbound.
A few downtown merchants said business was normal to slow all weekend.
Jeri Sanford, owner of Over the Fence, said Friday and Saturday were busy and she found a lot of potential for more people to come downtown with the Garden Bistro’s musical stage and attractions at the corner of Sequim Avenue and Washington Street.
Oen said the Purple Haze Lavender Store had its best three days ever over the weekend.
A few realtors told the Sequim Gazette that they had some feelers for potential clients over the weekend.
David Kruth, managing broker for Re/Max Fifth Avenue, said he had a client who specifically came for the Lavender Festival for three days and to see new homes in-between events.
“I believe the lavender festival helped cement their desire to move to the area,” Kruth said.
Dave Sharman, managing broker for Windermere Sequim East, said that at least 20 people stopped in on Saturday for information and that he got two leads for potential clients.