Festival of a Thousand Suns
By Tom Long
Fiddlehead Contributing Editor
Nothing says summer like a sunflower and the Coppal House Farm in Lee has acres of them.
Every July, when the pie plate-sized posies are at the peak of their beauty, the farm hosts a Sunflower Festival to benefit Make-A-Wish New Hampshire. This year’s will be held July 27 through Aug. 4.
There are few things as uplifting as a sunflower. Even Vincent van Gogh, who was not known for his cheery demeanor, created masterpieces inspired by this audacious blossom.
“It’s a happy flower, maybe because it’s yellow,” said Meghan Kelley, manager of the farm. “A field of sunflowers is like a field of sunshine.”
Last year, 15,000 attendees flocked to the festival at the 78-acre farm owned John and Carol Hutton.
“Nearly everyone came with a camera,” said Kelley, who added that about five acres of flowers will be on display this year.
The couple operate the farm with the help of a team of Belgian draft horses — “cappal” is the Gaelic word for horse.
The festival also features an auction of a number of items including a sunflower quit, Alpine Adventures skyline tour and more than a dozen other items and performances by a host of local bands.
In the last four years the festival has raised more than $35,000 to help Make-A-Wish ensure the dreams of children with chronic illnesses come true. Money raised at the farm festival has sent children and their families to Disneyworld and Universal Studios and a child with leukemia and her family to Hawaii to meet her hero, Moana.
“We sent two children on dream trips last year and we hope to make enough to send three children on their dream trips this year,” Kelley said.
A few weeks after the festival the sunflowers are harvested, and their seeds pressed to make cooking oil that is sold at local farmers’ markets.
Our crack Fiddlehead team has gathered some interesting sunflower factoids to enliven your visit:
The French word for sunflower is “tournesol,” which means turns with the sun.
Sunflowers are a common gift for third wedding anniversaries as a sign of adoration, loyalty and strength.
The tallest sunflower on record was 30 feet tall.
The Incas associated the flowers with their sun god and decorated their temples with the flowers.
Russia is responsible in some ways for the popularity of sunflower oil. Here’s how: After the Russian Orthodox Church prohibited the use of butter and lard during Lent, some turned to the use of sunflower oil. By the 19th century, sunflowers covered countless fields in Russia and the Ukraine.
Spanish conquistadors brought sunflowers to Europe.
Native Americans cultivated sunflowers, eating the seeds and cooking with their oil. They also used juice from stems to treat wounds and infused water with the plants to treat kidney and chest pain.
In China, the flowers are associated with long life, good fortune and longevity.
Millions of sunflowers were planted near the damaged nuclear power plants in Chernobyl, Ukraine, and Fukushima, Japan, to soak up radiation and toxins after their meltdowns.