French inspirations lead to Olalla Lavender Festival

It’s the same weekend as Sequim’s, but without the drive

Roughly 75 miles south of the Lavender Capital of North America, quaint little Olalla is preparing grand seas of purple for a new boutique festival founded on the basis of French culture and all-around lavender education.

The inaugural Olalla Lavender Festival will commence the weekend of July 20-21 for farm tours, crafts, educational activities, vendor shopping and just about anything else to do with the popular lavender plant. Farms from Kitsap County participating in the event include the Red Roof Ranch, Spin Cider Farm, Lisa’ Lavender Farm and Farmhouse Woodworking. Pierce County’s Crescent Valley and Astrid’s Lavender Farms are also participating.

The festival is an attempt to mirror that of what Olalla’s Huguette Marsicano saw in her upbringing in France, specifically in Provence where one of Europe’s largest celebrations of the iconic flower takes place. “There’s a tradition of lavender in Europe. It’s part of our life, and it’s kind of a miracle herb really.”

The overseas festival captures lavender’s beauty as well as its resourcefulness, both of which Marsicano hopes to encapsulate in this new event with the help of fellow organizers Traci Belting and Liz Decker.

“Lavender has been used for a long time and for all kinds of usage,” she said. “You can cook with lavender, it was used for hundreds of years as a medicinal herb. It’s calming, anti-stress, and it’s just unbelievable.”

Olalla’s festival will face direct competition from the well-established Sequim Lavender Festival, which draws visitors from Kitsap every year and is also scheduled for the third weekend in July. Offering a festival in Kitsap could intrigue those less willing to take the three-hour round trip, but it’s a focus on learning and the related activities that the organizers believe will become the main draw to stay local.

“They (Sequim) have products out, and they sell, but I think we have more of an education component,” Decker said. “We have far more classes. It’s not just about going into the little stores and buying lavender.”

The Olalla Community Club and the Olalla Vineyard and Winery, as well as the participating farms, will play host to a variety of activities for all ages. Those seeking to harness lavender’s powerful aroma can make shower steamers, sugar scrubs and other crafts. Others can discover its benefits in the kitchen in a culinary session, and more can tune into a hands-on lecture on just about everything there is to know about lavender.

Some who simply wish for a calming experience can join a Qigong session. “We even have a youth maker who is going to host a booth and makes some lavender-scented slimes,” Marsicano said.

Belting already considers herself far more educated in lavender than when she started working with the other two to prepare the festival. “They love it in the garden, they love it dried, in things on things. The decorations, I had no idea how many ways lavender or even dried lavender are in things like art projects,” she said.

Tickets are free, but organizers note that pre-registering will help with parking and visitor flow management. Some of the vendors and activities will require paid registration.

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