Fields full of thousands of towering sunflowers are now open in Chilliwack for visitors to see.
The fifth annual Chilliwack Sunflower Festival opened on Aug. 10 and runs until Monday, Sept. 5. The festival, located at Royalwood Drive, is also the site of the Chilliwack Tulip Festival.
“I’m so thrilled that the Sunflower Festival is back for its fifth great year,” said co-founder Kate Onos-Gilbert. “It’s fast become as much of a mid-summer tradition in the region as the Tulip Festival is in springtime. We’re anticipating that it’ll be the biggest and best yet.”
The festival draws hundreds of thousands of attendees to the grounds where 50 varieties of sunflowers are planted in three display gardens alongside more than 50 varieties of dahlias, eight varieties of gladiolas, and a large bed of zinnias and cosmos.
Visitors can roam more than three kilometres of pathways throughout the fields, which are planted in stages so that all of the flowers can be enjoyed throughout the season in various locations. While weather conditions determine when the greatest number of flowers are in bloom, between five and eight acres will be in full bloom at all times.
As in past years, there are various photo opportunities throughout the fields including an operational windmill, three vintage bicycles, a 1950s Morris convertible, a horse carriage, seven swing sets, a three-wheeled Harley-Davidson motorcycle, and new this year — a 1965 Airstream trailer.
Additional attractions include lawn games, U-pick sunflowers, a field-side store offering fresh-cut and potted sunflowers, sunflower seeds, bulbs (tulips and daffodils), souvenirs, ice cream, snacks, cold drinks, fresh Chilliwack corn, and local garlic. A local food truck will be on site daily (two on weekends).
Onos-Gilbert said they are also holding a fundraiser during the Chilliwack Sunflower Festival.
In recognition of the sunflower being the national flower of Ukraine, as well as a worldwide symbol of hope and unity, they are hosting a special fundraiser on Thursday, Aug. 25.
On that day, all ticket sales will be donated to Humanitarian Emergency Response Operations (HERO) Society, a registered not-for-profit society in Canada and a registered charity in Ukraine. The society is 100 per cent volunteer-operated, existing to provide humanitarian aid, disaster relief and emergency response support worldwide.
“Like millions of others, my husband and I have been heartbroken by images of the devastation in Ukraine,” Onos-Gilbert said. “In recognition of the sunflower being Ukraine’s national flower, we knew we wanted to create a fundraising event for the country’s citizens who are in need of support.”
Funds raised will support the HERO Society’s ongoing operations in both Ukraine and British Columbia. The multidisciplinary team in Ukraine is composed of both Canadian and Ukrainian volunteers whose main focus is logistical support and transportation of humanitarian aid. The B.C. team focuses on securing high-value medical equipment through private donors and surplus equipment. Their current mission involves sending a shipping container filled with hospital beds, linens, medical equipment, and supplies to eastern Ukraine.
Support will also be raised for ongoing projects with the Maple Hope Foundation, a registered Canadian non-profit raising funds to support Ukraine.
On Aug. 25, visitors will be treated to live music and entertainment, and there will be four food trucks onsite including Old Country Pierogi.
In a gesture of solidarity with the many volunteer groups in Ukraine, there will also be a letter-writing table where everyone is welcome to compose a note of support that will be given to those on the front lines in Ukraine. Additionally, an area beside the Chilliwack Sunflower Festival field-side store will be set up to help construct camouflage netting (mirroring an activity that has been taking place in Ukraine). The netting will be sent to Ukraine and used to protect humanitarian vehicles.
“We encourage everyone who can make it to attend the festival on this day. The more attendees, the more funds we can pass along for much-needed humanitarian relief,” Onos-Gilbert said.
The fields are located at 41310 Royalwood Dr., just off Highway 1. Parking is free. Tickets are available online only. For complete details, including ticket pricing and purchasing, visit chilliwacksunflowerfest.com. Hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.
For more on the HERO Society, go to herosociety.ca.