This photo won last year’s contest at the De Soto Sunflower Artfest and is being used as the poster for this year’s festival. JIM WALKER
This photo won last year’s contest at the De Soto Sunflower Artfest and is being used as the poster for this year’s festival. JIM WALKER

Olathe & Southwest Joco

Even without flowers, the De Soto Sunflower Artfest will go on

By Anne Kniggendorf

Special to The Star

September 20, 2016 02:54 PM

What is De Soto’s Sunflower Artfest without the sunflowers? The answer: It’s just fine.

Last year errant deer ate all of the sunflowers at De Soto’s Kill Creek Farm, where the three-day festival is held. This year, August was too dry for the sunflowers to grow.

The landscape of the Sunflower Artfest — operating under that name since 2009 — will have to solely rely on the art for this year’s color palette. And that’ll work. The De Soto Arts Council is showing the work of 18 artists as well as showcasing local musicians and restaurants.

Darrel Zimmerman, the farm’s owner, said a few of his sunflowers actually did come up this year, but while he was preparing the grounds for the festival this week, he noticed that the tops had been chewed off.

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“Now, if you’ve got 40 acres of sunflowers the deer can’t eat them all, but when you’ve just got a little field that’s 30 feet wide by 200 feet long, they can munch on all of them,” he said, chuckling.

No hard feelings here.

Zimmerman, a longtime Rotary club member, will have to sell someone else’s flowers this year to raise money for Rotary International’s PolioPlus program. He estimates that he’s raised between $10,000 to $12,000 since 2009. His wife survived polio as a child, so the cause is dear to his heart.

Photographer Carolyn Dvorak, De Soto Arts Council president, said she doesn’t have an exact count, but she thinks the three-day event draws about 1,000 people a year.

The event also benefits Pioneer 4-H Club and Boy Scout Troop 54.

The Kansas State University Agriculture Department has sent packets of sunflower seeds to the Arts Council for distribution at the festival to children in kindergarten through 12th grade. The hope is that those children will return to the farm to help grow next year’s sunflowers.

In addition to helping grow the sunflowers, Dvorak said the goal “is to have the students involved enter an art project to the show next year dealing with the planting, growing, harvesting” of those sunflowers.

The current Rotary Club International’s magazine reports that when Rotary took up the cause of eradicating polio 31 years ago, the world saw 350,000 new cases per year. Now, fewer than one new case per week is reported in the couple of countries that still see the crippling disease.

Zimmerman said those numbers are a great improvement, but until no more cases are reported, the international community needs to remain vigilant about both raising funds and keeping awareness high. He hopes to continue doing both at this year’s festival.

Sunflower Artfest

When: 5-7 p.m. Friday; , 10 a.m.-7 p.m., Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday

Where: Kill Creek Farm, 9200 Kill Creek Road, De Soto

Admission and parking are free.