Heart of Louisiana: Sunflowers

Heart of Louisiana: Sunflowers

(WVUE) - For a few weeks in June, you have the chance to see the roadside and dozens of acres of farmland in North Louisiana turn bright yellow. It's an annual spectacle along the state's sunflower trail.

More than 20 years ago, a farmer along this rural road decided to plant something different: Not cotton, not corn or soybeans. He planted sunflowers.

"And it just started out as a whim," said Gordon Boogaerts.

Boogaerts planted 16 acres of sunflowers in 1995. He watched the leafy stalks as they grew to 6 to 8 feet tall.  And one sunny morning, he got the surprise of his life.

"One morning I wake up and they are just glorious. It's somebody came in that night before and just painted the most beautiful scene I've ever seen," Boogaerts said.

The sunflower patch was an instant hit.

"Hundreds if not thousands of people showed up, nursing homes brought buses full of people out," he said.

And his neighboring farmers noticed, and decided to add to the splash of color along Highway 3049.  It became known as the sunflower trail. And there's now an annual sunflower festival in the nearby town of Gilliam.

And look at this sunflower patch. Thirty acres of giant yellow flowers at the Cairo Plantation planted by John Sloan.

The field puts smiles on the faces of those who visit.

"We're from Shreveport," said Verity Bell. "We come out every year as a family.

"It's a perfect way to spend a Saturday under the sunshine and looking at beautiful nature," said Alyssa Collins.

Sloan encourages his visitors to take handfuls of flowers.

"They can cut all they want," he said. "It's just kind of become a tradition and I look forward to it. It's a lot of fun. I like it.

In Louisiana, the sunflowers are not a cash crop. Why do they grow it? Well the answer is simple. Because they look great. And Gordon Boogaerts noticed something else as cars and tour buses stopped to admire his sunflowers.

"The best part about it is the quality of people that it attracted was amazing. It renewed, refreshed and my outlook on humanity," he said.

What started on a whim has turned into an awe-inspiring celebration of beauty. Farmers set aside the land and plant the seeds each spring, and nature does the rest.

The sunflowers only last a few weeks. You can see them a few miles north of Shreveport along Louisiana Highway 3049.  And this Saturday, the sunflower festival is taking place in the town of Gilliam.

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