By: Matt de Simone – Contributing writer
As fall approaches in Botetourt County, Beaver Dam Farm in Buchanan prepares for its fifth annual Sunflower Festival over the next two weekends, September 12-13 and 19-20.
For the past four years, the farmland previously hosted members of the Botetourt community and other visitors around the area to festival weekends of hayrides, face painting, and photo booths. While this year’s festival will still give the community a chance to enjoy the farm’s captivating countryside, the current state of the world’s gathering restrictions will limit festivalgoers’ volume to ensure a safe, socially distanced festival.
The festival’s founder, Candace Monaghan, faced challenges while preparing this year’s events. The first one being: Will there even been a Sunflower Festival in 2020?
“I was definitely worried about it,” Monaghan recounted. “In March, I thought, ‘Thank goodness September is so far away. All of this will be gone and we won’t have to worry about anything.’ Then the months kept going by and I kept getting worried. Then it turned into deciding we were going to have this no matter what and figure out the rules we have to follow in order to make it happen.”
On top of abiding by restriction mandates, Monaghan had to change the structure of ticket sales to accommodate this year’s festivities better.
“We normally allow people to enter at the gate and don’t cap the number of attendees,” Monaghan explained.
Tickets to the 2020 Sunflower Festival are mostly reservations only due to limitations on public gatherings.
“We moved ticket sales online and instituted a two-hour timeslot between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m.,” Monaghan continued. “They’ll come for two hours, have a 15-minute break where guests leave, and then we can get ready for the new group. It’s been challenging working this out.”
Tickets are available on the Sunflower Festival website. They’re made available in two-hour intervals ranging from times of 9-11 a.m., 1:30-3:30 p.m., and 3:45-5:45 p.m.
While this year’s festivities remain the same, the festival canceled some special midweek activities due to the continuing concern of the COVID-19 virus.
“Normally, the week between the two festival weekends, we would have a day for senior citizens where they come out and enjoy the fields without the crowds,” Monaghan explained. “We would also have a day for special needs children and another day where preschool and kindergarten classes could visit. Due to all the restrictions and health concerns, none of those groups could come this year. I reached out to all of them, and only one could make it. We ended up having to cancel all of those days, which we did not want to do.”
The Sunflower Festival still offers other midweek events like yoga, a sunset dinner, and a paint night for the community to enjoy. This Saturday, the festival will host two live bands in the morning and the evening. Sunday, the festival welcomes a group of cloggers to perform.
For tickets, visit the Sunflower Festival website at: beaverdamsunflowers.com. While some tickets will be available at the gate, the festival staff wants to limit possible wait times outside the festivities at the risk of public gatherings’ current safety concerns.