SEQUIM — You can talk about the healing nature of lavender. It soothes bug bites, cools anxiety and brings relief from restlessness, say studies around the world.
For those living the lavender life here, the story is a larger one.
“When I step out of the store and see the people in the fields, I get this big, swelling feeling,” said Susan Olson, aka Mom and Grandma at the Lavender Connection, 1141 Cays Road.
Her place is among the gardens, farms, parks and nurseries celebrating the Sequim Lavender Weekend today through Sunday.
“I have people get out of the car,” Olson said, “and they are just ‘Wow.’ They just stand there. They’re blown away.”
July’s third weekend is the peak of the purple, the time when hundreds of lavender varieties bloom. Across the Sequim-Dungeness Valley, farms beckon with gazebos, Adirondack chairs, wooden benches, clippers for assembling lavender bundles — and that view.
“The lavender itself is beautiful,” said Jordan Schiefen of Jardin du Soleil, the farm at 3932 Sequim-Dungeness Way.
She and her husband Paul bought Jardin eight lavender seasons ago. Like the neighboring farmers, the Schiefens have grown their operation with the help of family, including their chosen tribe of friends. Many come for weekend weeding parties in spring and concerts through the summer.
It’s these three days, though, when thousands from all over arrive to see Sequim’s signature crop.
They gather up lavender products, pick bouquets and listen to live music in the shade of the farmhouses; they visit art shows, wineries, farmers’ markets, concerts and dances in and around the city of Sequim.
Most farms are open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. today and Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, while some close a little earlier each evening.
Out in the country at the Lavender Connection, Olson marvels at what happened this year. Her daughter Rebecca Olson and son-in-law Doug Mazzeo left their Seattle place behind to live on the farm. They’ve weeded the fields and renovated the farmhouse, working alongside Olson’s son Scott, daughter Kendra Harrington and grandson Drew.
“We couldn’t do it without them,” Olson said.
Each location, from Martha Lane and Lost Mountain Lavender to Nelson’s Duckpond and Kitty B’s Lavender Farm and beyond, shows its personality during lavender season.
Olympic Lavender Co., for example, has what owners Marco and Christa Hermosillo call “huge ridiculous purple chairs” — each 10 feet tall — dotting the property. Jardin du Soleil has Eli the camel, who’s been coming to the farm for three years now to provide rides. There’s also Cosmo the resident rabbit.
The Lavender Connection has its “invent a scent” bar where visitors blend lavender essential oil with other aromas to create their own fragrances, an attraction that “has really taken off,” Olson said.
The scent of comfrey and lavender meets visitors to Earth Muffin Lavender, a compact farm with a few hundred plants at 2333 Woodcock Road.
“We’re pretty low-key,” said owner Jill Pinder.
She and her husband Richard started growing lavender here in 2008 and joined the July tour four years ago.
“We moved to the Sequim area after visiting the lavender festival for many years. We found the perfect piece of property,” said Pinder, who offers Earth Muffin soaps and lotions scented with verbena, comfrey, mint and yes, lavender.
Richard died earlier this year. Pinder is devoted to their farm still, and looks forward to welcoming her visitors this weekend.
Last year a bus brought a small flock from a local seniors’ residence. One man was unable to get off the bus, so Pinder went in to chat with him. Finding several other passengers keeping him company, she ended up answering one question after another, and giving a mini-seminar about lavender.
On the other end of the spectrum are the big farms and the Sequim Lavender Festival Street Fair.
Looking across the valley from west to east, Victor’s Lavender, 3743 Old Olympic Highway, is among the farms with — today through Sunday — you-pick bundles, products and plants for sale, a picnic area, lavender oil distillation, food, beer, wine and live music.
To get things warmed up tonight, Victor’s hosts a barn dance from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. with the old-time-bluegrass-blues-funk band Joy in Mudville. Admission to the dance, like admission to the lavender farm, is free.
Washington Lavender Farm will host its final days of a 10-day mini-festival at the farm at 965 Finn Hall Road.
At the Street Fair on the east side of town, Sequim’s town-and-country fair fans out across Carrie Blake Park, 202 N. Blake Ave.
A juried show of artisans and producers, local nonprofit organizations and numerous kinds of live music mix alongside Mexican, Pacific Northwestern, Greek, Spanish, Thai and classic county-fair food. One can also find a lavender eye pillow for later.
Entrance to the fair is free, and on Saturday it includes the Sequim Lavender Festival’s Street Dance with the Black Diamond Junction band from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. The venue is not actually a street; it’s the James Center for the Performing Arts, aka the band shell adjacent to Carrie Blake Park.
In the park and on the farms, the growers, cooks, artists, musicians and volunteers have labored together to make this weekend flow. When asked what keeps her awake at night in the weeks leading to now, Jardin du Soleil’s Schiefen said: “Everything. All the things.”
She knows the big reward comes soon: when she sits down to relax with a young visitor at the craft table. They’ll make a souvenir, a doll fairy with a lavender skirt.
A few miles west at the Lavender Connection, Olson describes the essence of the weekend.
“Everybody’s welcome,” she said.
“If all they do is get out of the car and take a deep breath, we’ve done our job.”
For more information, see http://www.visitsunnysequim.com/.
Diane Urbani de la Paz, a former features editor for the Peninsula Daily News, is a freelance writer living in Port Townsend.