Turns out we were a smidge too late for the Sunflower Festival at Bergsbaken Farms this year, but we had one of those summer-perfect, Wisconsin-classic, is-this-a-great-state-or-what days anyway.
We started our Saturday with the Cheesehead 5K (which was so fun it deserves its own post). Then we hit the Appleton Farmer’s Market, headed Up North for a river float, swung by Bergsbaken Farms for a peak at their sunflower fields, saw a glorious sunset over Shawano Lake, had dinner at Washington Inn, and enjoyed a campfire back at our cabin.
One of the best parts of that day was our quick stop at Take a Chance in Advance, where we popped in to say hello to Delores, our favorite bartender.
“What have you been up to today?” she asked as she built me a monumental homemade Bloody Mary.
“We came to see the Sunflower Fields,” Vince told her. “We were a little late this year but they still looked cool.”
“Hey, Lee!” Delores said to the man sitting at the bar next to Vince. “They liked your flowers.”
Turns out we had plopped ourselves down right next to Lee Bergsbaken, owner, along with his brother Dale, of Bergsbaken Farms.
So, we had a good chat.
Between 18,000 and 20,000 people visited the farm this year for their Sunflower Festival. Vince asked how many paid their $2 entry under the farm’s honor system.
“All of them,” Lee said. “They either pay on their way in, or they catch it on the way out.”
Is this a great state or what?
I mentioned that the field layout seemed different this year and learned that you have to rotate sunflower crops or white mold will set in.
Lee himself mans the phones and once fielded 350 calls in one day. One of his most memorable phone calls came from a man in Chicago who brought his girlfriend and a whole team of photographers to the sunflower fields to propose.
“I was hoping to hell she’d say yes,” Lee said. “That would have been a long ride home.”
In addition to him and his brother, the farm employs Lee’s daughter and son in-law, Lisa and Jason Peters. Lisa paints the colorful signs and photo cartoons, and Jason built the three viewing platforms.
Next year, for the fifth annual Sunflower Festival, we intend to arrive on time so we can enjoy the live music and fun. Lee said the best way to know exactly when the festival will be next year, due to the uncertainty of when the flowers will bloom, is to follow them on Facebook. Generally it is the last weekend in July.
This year, we missed it by three weeks. But, we still had a great time wandering through the somewhat droopy but still happy flower fields and there was something kind of nice about having the place almost all to ourselves during the golden hour of a Saturday.