Staff Photos: Sue Ann Kuhn-Smith Rena Holt cuts sunflowers on her family farm in Rutledge. Holt and her clan are preparing for the Sunflower Farm Festival, which takes place this weekend.
RUTLEDGE -- Sunflowers and summertime go hand in hand, and the Sunflower Farm Festival in Rutledge is offering a way to celebrate both.
The 11th annual festival takes place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at Sunflower Farm, located at 1430 Durden Road in Rutledge. This year's event is jam packed with activities for the whole family, including live music, hay rides, pony rides, a petting zoo, an arts and crafts show, a country market and fields of sunflowers waiting to be harvested.
Organizers are expecting up to 10,000 people.
"It can be a really full day," said Wes Holt, festival coordinator and owner of Sunflower Farm.
The country market, located in an old sharecropper's cabin, will be the site where fresh produce, sunflower seeds and festival T-shirts are available for purchase. In front of the cabin will be an antique market and there will also be an arts and crafts fair with more than 100 vendors.
Kids can walk through Enchanted Forest, a fairy land with games, ferns and moss gardens, as well as enjoy a petting zoo and pony rides, hayrides and a milk cow demonstration.
Live entertainment will be featured throughout the festival, with performers including Rocky Creek Band, Packway Handle Band, High Strung String Band, The Apostles of Bluegrass, Shelby McLeod and April Allen.
Corey Durkin, a singer/songwriter from Connecticut who wrote a song about Aimee Copeland, the Snellville woman battling a flash-eating bacteria, will also perform at 11 a.m. and 1:45 p.m. Saturday, and festival-goers will have the chance to buy a sunflower for $1 to form a sunflower chain that will be hung around the fences bordering the sunflower fields.
"We're hoping to have the longest chain in the state of Georgia," Holt said, adding that proceeds will be donated to Copeland's family.
On Sunday, the annual Cruise for the Cure Golf Cart Parade benefitting Morgan County Relay for Life will take place at 2 p.m. Souvenirs created by the Georgia Woodturner's Association from a Georgia Champion sassafras tree that was cut down on the farm this spring will also be sold as a fundraiser for Camp Twin Lakes, a camp in Rutledge for children with serious illnesses, disabilities and other life challenges.
Of course, the heart of the festival is the 15 acres of sunflowers. Folks can pick as many as they can carry for $15.
There will be plenty of food, including barbecue, hot dogs and hamburgers, for sale too.
Admission to the festival is $8 per person, and is good for both days of the festival. The cost is $5 for children ages 4 to 12 and free to kids under age 4 and U.S. veterans. Family four packs are also available for $25 and couples can save a dollar off admission.
Sunflower Farm is a 75-year-old farm that has been home to five generations of the West-Holt family. W.W. and Pauline West purchased the property and moved their five children and their hog and cotton farming operation there in 1936. Sunflowers were planted there for the first time in the 1980s. Bobby West, the youngest of the eight West siblings, planted a field in 2000 to attract doves there for a hunt. Pretty soon, passersby started stopping and asking to cut the flowers and have their pictures taken in the fields. The field proved so popular during its first season that the family decided to hold a festival the next year.
For more information about Sunflower Farm and the festival, visit www.sunflowerfarmfestival.com.