As we head into August, there is one crop that really draws a crowd. It’s not something grown on many farms in the area, but that only adds to the appeal when you stumble across entire fields brimming with bright-yellow sunflowers!
I’ve always enjoyed the beauty of sunflowers, not to mention the tasty snack their seeds provide. You can imagine my reaction the first time I drove past a field blooming with sunflowers. I did a double take, immediately turned the car around and grabbed my camera. Since then, I’ve been looking for sunflower fields every August – from areas north of Lancaster County down into Maryland, where they typically bloom a little later. Last year I had the pleasure of discovering the sunflower field pictured here; incredibly enough, it’s located next to the Please Wash Me Carwash in Elverson, Chester County.
Rick Frey and his wife, Joey, built the car wash in 2003. One day Rick was driving home when he noticed a bunch of cars pulled over at a farm. Then he noticed the farmer’s sunflower field and all the people taking pictures and admiring the scenery.
In 2010 the couple planted a 1-acre crop of sunflowers in the field next to their car wash, with the hope of attracting customers during the slow summer months. It worked, and it has subsequently attracted more and more people each year.
Over time, this simple idea to attract customers has become less about promoting their business and more about community. The Freys’ sunflower field has now become infamous through social media (the sunflowers have their own Facebook page) and news stories that have attracted tens of thousands of visitors over the years. In the past, the Freys have freely shared this attention to the benefit of local organizations such as the Twin Valley Food Pantry.
Rick now views the sunflower field as a unique public space and enjoys seeing all of the various ways people utilize it. Some come to admire, some come to take pictures, and some even arrive with paint and canvas to capture the beauty of sunflowers in the spirit of old master painters such as Vincent van Gogh. The Freys encourage everyone to visit the field and enjoy the unique scenery it provides free of charge. However, due to its popularity, they ask that you take nothing but pictures and memories when you leave.
The sunflowers typically begin to bloom around the last week of July or the first week of August. They normally bloom for two to two-and-a-half weeks, with peak blooming lasting about a week before they begin to wilt. Timing is key to catching the field full of giant orange and yellow blooms standing at attention. So, be sure to follow Lancaster County magazine’s Facebook page and Instagram for my updates on the sunflowers.
Make it a day trip! Sitting just off Route 23, where Lancaster borders Chester and Berks counties, Elverson provides a great opportunity for a summer drive with a variety of potential destinations – such as Historic Poole Forge and the Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site – along the way. The sunflower field itself is located directly next to the Please Wash Me Carwash at 1 Yingst Drive in Elverson. I hope to see you there!