Spectacle of sunflowers and selfies becoming Labor Day tradition in Leavenworth County

LEAVENWORTH COUNTY, Kan. -- Thousands of people made the trek to Lawrence this weekend to see the sunflowers in full bloom. Thankfully, this year didn’t have many of the same traffic headaches as last Labor Day weekend.

“When I pulled in the parking lot I was amazed, I could not believe my eyes,” Joe Pena said of the breathtaking 40 acres of green and yellow.

But it’s a sight some people didn’t get to see last Labor Day, as Leavenworth County deputies had to shut down access to the farm when too many tried to make it to the rural field at the same time.

Monday, deputies shut down a couple of nearby gravel roads to help traffic flow. But farm owner Ted Grinter says the parking area he plowed staying dry coupled with volunteers helping direct traffic made a big difference.

“I’ve used two parking lots and everything has been going great coming in and going out," Grinter said.

Despite the farms increasing popularity, there were still plenty of first-time visitors this weekend. Some came from as far away as Norway and Nepal. Others never knew it was virtually in their backyard.

“I’ve lived here my entire life and had no clue it was here, so I was super excited to find this," Alexis Thompson said.

“I’ve never been out here, and I’ve only heard rumors. This is way beyond my wildest expectation," Lynn Stewart said.

The farm allows visitors to take a sunflower or two home with them for a donation. Most people come dressed for family photos.

“It’s a good representation of Kansas with the sunflowers and it’s an everlasting memory now that we’ve got some pictures for it," Calan Norton said holding his 5-month-old daughter.

“This is an experience. Hopefully the kids will remember this and I can keep doing it, and they can come back and bring their kids," Grinter said.

County Administrator Mark Loughry expressed concerns last week about a repeat of traffic woes around the sunflower fields. Nearby downtown Tonganoxie businesses hosted a Sunflower Stroll this weekend hoping to attract visitors to spend their day in the area.

Grinter said based on how smoothly things went Labor Day weekend, he’ll definitely plant the sunflowers again next year.