In about a month, the sunflowers will be in full bloom and Candace Monaghan and her Beaver Dam Farm family will essentially turnover 21 acres of the golden flowers to the public.
This time, the Beaver Dam Farm Sunflower Festival will stretch over two weekends (dates to be determined by the sunflowers) with some other midweek activities to accommodate preschoolers, seniors and those who might struggle on farm ground.
Last year— at the farm’s second festival— the crowds over one weekend were so large it almost overwhelmed the operation.
Monaghan hopes the crowds are as large or larger again this year, only spread out over four days instead of two.
She’s been preparing, though, and in the process has added vendors (60 are signed up) and other activities for visitors of all ages— including the youngsters.
The Sunflower Festival is not all that Monaghan has been working on since the sunflower harvest last fall (they farm sells packaged sunflower seeds for the birds and planting, too).
She an artist and wrote and illustrated a coloring book in order to raise awareness about the family’s fourth generation dairy farm.
“The festival is a way for us to diversify the income when milk prices are low,” Monaghan noted. “This book explains our farm from the beginning in 1927, the crops and animals we raise, to the founding of the sunflower festival.”
With the help from one of the festival sponsors, Alam Architect Design, it was possible to send one of these books home with every elementary child in Botetourt County. “This will have a huge impact on helping to spread the word about ag education,” Monaghan said.
In fact, she’s holding a book signing Saturday, Aug. 18 from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. at Ikenberry’s Orchard in Daleville.
Agriculture education has been a focus of the Botetourt County Farm Bureau’s women’s organization, something Monaghan has been a part of for several years.
It’s something the Sunflower Festival provides as well.
The Sunflower Festival has also gotten the support of other county businesses alongside of Alam Design. The Bank of Fincastle, Bank of Botetourt, James River Equipment and Rockingham Coop are among those sponsors.
Once the dates are set (by the sunflowers), Monaghan will start getting word out about which back-to-back weekends (right now, the window appears to be two of the middle three in September) those will be.
The festival hours are set, though, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. each day.
Both festival Saturday will have music from local musicians and the nearly five dozen food and craft vendors will each offer something unique, Monaghan said.
Also, the farm is adding more walking paths through the sunflowers so visitors can explore more of the flowers.
For the kids, there will be face painting, farm animal petting area and other activities.
During the week between the festival days there will be three special days.
The Tuesday is Preschool Day, the Wednesday is Senior Citizen Day and Thursday is Special Needs Day. “These groups are invited to join us and enjoy the festival without the large crowds so they can move around easier and sit back and relax,” Monaghan said. “There will be an informative session about sunflowers, hay rides, flowers and a tent for them to enjoy lunch or snack in should they want to take advantage.
“During the weeknights, the festival is offering the ever-famous goat yoga, a paint night of sunflowers and an evening of elegant dinning with sunflowers at sunset,” she said.
More information and tickets will be available closer to time for these three events and spots are limited.
The support from the sponsors has been a welcome addition, Monahan said.
“We approached Candace this past winter with the possibility of being the first business to sponsor the Beaver Dam Sunflower Festival,” said Scott Steele, President and CEO of The Bank of Fincastle. “We saw a unique opportunity to support farming and agri-tourism and bring businesses, such as the bank, together with local farms and the community to support one another.”
The Bank of Fincastle will be the main sponsor this year, which enables the Sunflower Festival to add a music venue to the event, Monaghan said.
“As a community bank, we understand the importance of supporting our community. We are proud to be a sponsor of this family-friendly agri-tourism event and encourage everyone to come experience the sunflowers and festival first hand,” Bank of Botetourt President and CEO G. Lyn Hayth III explained.
“The architects and builders of Alam Design Group are excited to have this opportunity to sponsor the Beaver Dam Sunflower Festival,” Alam Design Group owner and President Husain B. Alam said. “This community event brings people of all ages together. For the one week those sunflowers are blooming, Candace and her team are able to make thousands of children and adults smile through hay rides, walk-through maize, art, music, crafts and food. All this fun with 21 acres of sunflowers blooming around. We are glad to have the opportunity to serve our community through this event, and we are excited to be a part of all the smiles and sunflowers.”
Once the Sunflower Festival rolls around, there are a few things to remember, Monaghan said. “cash only on entrance, no dogs and you will be on a working farm, comfortable walking shoes are recommended as the terrain is not always flat or level.”
Folks can follow updates on the festival (and how the sunflowers are doing at the Beaver Dam Farm Facebook page and on Instagram at BeaverDamSunflowers.