Located outside of Greater Vancouver, BC’s first and largest Tulip Festival now hosts the Chilliwack Sunflower Festival. I had wanted to attend the Tulip Festival in early spring. But, due to Covid-19, the farm canceled the event because the farm was not equipped for visitors to attend safely. However, planting the fields with wider paths, creating a one-way system, and reducing the event capacity, the area was open to the public in mid-August. Not only did we enjoy the sunflowers but also a stunning collection of dahlias.
Vancouverites have a love affair with flowers. Maybe, it comes from our long winters and the need for a ray of sunshine or colour on a gray day. In the spring, along with the Tulip Festival, Vancouver enjoys a fantastic cherry blossom display. We have always enjoyed florals in Queen Elizabeth Park and VanDusen’s manicured gardens, but we hadn’t been to a field to enjoy blooms. Brian and I didn’t know what to expect when we arrived at the festival. But we were pleasantly surprised and enjoyed almost two hours of being enthralled by fields of incredible blooms, all on a hot September day.
The Chilliwack farm has a total of sixty acres. The farm has dedicated ten acres to different varieties of sunflowers, purely grown for the public to enjoy. The remaining fifty acres had tall stalks of corn growing for fodder and animal feed.
Sunflower Festival Tickets
Since we attended after the Covid-19 lock-down, the event had to do things a little differently. Who am I kidding, a lot differently! Firstly, tickets are only available online and purchased during time slots. Only a limited number of tickets were available for each hour of the day. The event is dog-friendly, but pets must be kept on a leash.
The event offers plenty of free parking and all within a short stroll of the fields. The parking area was divided by time slots too. Like line-ups in stores, there was one way in and a separate exit. While we took face masks, we weren’t required to wear them since the fields are enormous, and easy to avoid other attendees.
Secondly, due to Covid, the farm removed some of the hands-on props used in previous years. These included the picnic tables, children’s playground, lawn games, and U-pick sunflowers. Also, during the 2020 season, outside food could no longer be brought into the festival.
More To Explore In The Vancouver Area:
Directions To The Sunflower Festival In Chilliwack
- Location: 41310 Yale Road, Chilliwack
From Vancouver, travel on the Trans-Canada Hwy/BC-1 E for 85+ km to Chilliwack. Take exit 109 from Trans-Canada Hwy/BC-1 E. Turn right onto Yale Road, and there is signage for the festival. Turn right again at Royalwood Avenue, and the farm is on your left. Use the second driveway to enter the field for parking.
What Flowers Are Planted In the Fields?
Seeing as it’s a sunflower festival, the fields contained, you guessed it, sunflowers! In fact, there are 25 varieties of glorious, golden sunflowers, and other hues too. I didn’t know there were that many types. Viewing the blooms, the red and deep orange varieties fascinated me. Also, the giants were incredible and towered over Brian’s head.
In the centre of the fields, rows and rows of the most stunning dahlias captured my attention. Sixty variations from small garden blooms to eye-popping giants were equally as delightful as the golden sunflowers. There were also a couple of rows of gladiolus flowers in rainbow hues.
Walking Amongst The Blooms
With a map in hand, we wandered toward the fields of giant blooms. Attending towards the end of the growing season, staff said the “early season blooms” indicated on the map’s right were mostly finished. However, since the fields had been planted in stages, the “mid-season blooms” and “late-season blooms” were at their peak. So, regardless of when you attend, there is always a phenomenal selection of flowers to enhance your senses.
Not wanting to miss anything, we still wandered through a small section of the early birds because they contained some burgundy red (almost black) sunflowers that drew me in. While smaller in size, the colours were beautiful and reminded me more of a Gerber daisy than a sunflower.
Nestled in this corner was a quaint church and old tractor that begged for Instagram pictures. A lone hummingbird appeared within inches of my face and fluttered feverishly, watching me. Stunned by its presence, I stood frozen in time, watching it flap its little wings. And as quickly as it appeared, it disappeared, like a flash of lightning.
Meandering up the wide pathways and trying our best to follow the one-way routes, we stopped many times to admire a couple of rows of gladiolus blooms and some dahlias. The one-way signage was a little hidden in places, and I noticed some people walking the wrong way. I’m sure not intentionally because there were small pathways to cut through the rows but no signage to show which way to walk.
In the back fields or “mid-season blooms,” I noticed the sunflowers were all facing the sun. This is typical of young plants to follow the sun during the day. Once the flowers mature, they stop sun-tracking but wait for the insects to feed on their nectar.
The Sunflower Giants
At five feet tall (or short), the rows of sunflower giants engulfed me. These giants are typical of what we imagine sunflowers to be; large brown faces with golden petals. In early September, most of these plants were past their “due date,” and their buttery blades were wilting and falling to the ground.
Being top-heavy, many were also drooping and showering the soil with their seeds, ensuring a bumper crop for the following year. It reminded me of Van Gogh’s sunflowers seen at the Imagine Van Gogh exhibition at ant Vancouver Convention Centre.
The Photo Op Stations
What makes the Chilliwack Sunflower Festival more enjoyable is the use of photo op stations throughout the fields. Scattered amongst the pasture of blossoms are two antique bicycles, a few vintage farm tractors, three swing sets, a Dutch windmill, and a 1950 Morris car. At each photo op station, touchless hand sanitizers and signage reminds visitors to stay six feet apart.
Brian and I felt like kids again on the giant swings, and we enjoyed taking our selfies in the vintage automobile.
Nestled in the fields are a few raised platforms that allowed us to appreciate this place’s beauty. As far as we could see, magnificent blooms radiated in kaleidoscope shades against a backdrop of mountains. On the platform furthest from the entrance, the plethora of sunflowers was eye candy, and we stood for a while, absorbing their beauty. But as I admired the flowers that worship the sun, one thing was missing. It would have been wonderful to read about these breathtaking flowers on informational plaques.
We took one more stroll down the dahlia rows to admire the dinner plate varieties. These impressive giants can produce blooms from 10 to 12 inches in size. Who needs a bouquet when one single blossom fills a vase?
Chilliwack Sunflower Festival Store
After a few hot hours in the sun, we stopped by the farm’s store for some cold beverages and purchased some Chilliwack corn. The store sells cut flowers, bulbs, sunflower gifts, and seeds to plant your own.
Outside, the Dutchlicious food truck offers a delicious selection of Dutch treats and snacks.
If you’re looking to escape Vancouver’s hustle and bustle for a few hours, get your sensory overload at this Fraser Valley Sunflower Festival.
Happy travels ~ Karen