Sunflower Fields Forever
Dave and Diane
Each summer, the energy level in Calhoun, Georgia, picks up. The extra buzz around the city, which is known for its history and natural beauty, is generated by the annual Copper Creek Sunflower Festival.
This highly anticipated event brings thousands of people to Copper Creek, a 60-acre farm owned and operated by David and Sabrina Grogan and their five adult children. It takes place over six weekends in June and July with the dates varying a bit each year depending on the sunflowers’ blooming season.
According to Sarah Ostuw, director of the Gordon County Convention & Visitors Bureau, the farm and the festival are great draws for locals and visitors alike.
“The Sunflower Festival is a small-town diamond in the rough and a great thing for us,” she says. “It’s a real family-friendly event, and we’ll get people from all over the place—Atlanta, Chattanooga, Birmingham—and other states like South Carolina and even Michigan.”
Situated just eight miles off Interstate 75, Copper Creek is a world away from the hustle and bustle of the busy freeway. The Grogan family’s property is an oasis in northwestern Georgia that oozes charm and begs a slower pace. Ostuw says you get a peaceful feeling even before you set foot on the farm.
“I love the drive out to Copper Creek; it is so beautiful,” she says. “You are on this winding country road with
scenic mountains and pastures around you, and you feel like you are out away from it all.”
The Grogan’s purchased the property in 1996 but didn’t get serious about developing it for another decade. Aspen Grogan, who helps his parents and siblings run the farm and the festival, says it is a true tale of humble beginnings.
“The business side of Copper Creek really got started under a tent on the property where we sold our homemade ice cream,” he says. “That was in 2008 as a way to make extra money during the recession. Then Dad got a food trailer and started selling our ice cream and lemonade at roughly 45 local festivals a year.”
From 2009–13, there was a lot of development on the property and, after learning the festival ropes, David Grogan decided maybe it was time to start one of his own.
“In 1996, Dad had no intentions of having a festival or any kind of entertainment at the farm but, by 2013, he wondered how he could bring his family together and if we could have our own event,” says Aspen. “So we did the first Sunflower Festival and our fall event in 2013.”
From an Ice Cream Tent to a Festival
Zip Lines and Pig Races, and Sunflowers, Oh My!
Over the course of the Sunflower Festival’s six-week run, you are treated to sunshiny days and old-fashioned family fun.
“Our goal is to give everyone that comes to the event the best experience possible, and I feel so blessed to get to do what we do,” Aspen says. “It is a lot of work and long days, but it is cool to see families relaxing and enjoying being together. It still amazes me what God has done here and that our family gets to share this special place with other families.”
You pay one admission price, which includes access to the farm and 25 activities. And. what does the list of those two dozen-plus activities include? Well, the better question might be: What doesn’t it include?
Let’s start with the more typical farm options. You can enjoy the large petting zoo, visit the Bee Barn, and check out Bunnyville, where Copper Creek’s rabbits hang out. Cow train and hay wagon rides take you around the grounds to different areas of the farm, and there are pony rides on a live-horse carousel and a corn crib where kids can play.
If you are feeling a bit adventurous, zip lining and riding a mechanical bull headline the list of non-traditional activities. There are 100-foot-long slides, and an area along the creek where you can mine for precious gems.
“We also have a monster splash pad, where water cascades down on you like a gentle waterfall,” says Aspen. “People love our monster pumpkin cannon that shoots pumpkins roughly 500 yards into the Appalachians. It’s wild!”
And, don’t forget the sunflowers. True to the event’s name, one of the most popular areas is the sunflower garden. Located along the river, this 10-acre area is flocked with thousands of the bright yellow flowers, which become the backdrop for tons of selfies, family photos, and other Instagram-worthy moments.
There also is a food court, where you can take a break and enjoy some of the tasty products—many of which are raised and produced at the farm—including the lemonade and ice cream that helped get it all started.
“They have amazing food there with barbecue and their homemade ice cream and other goodies,” says Ostuw.
There’s a Fall Festival, Too
If you fancy a fall trip back to the farm, the Grogan’s also offer a fall harvest celebration that runs from the end of September to early November. Similar to the Sunflower Festival, it is held on weekend days.
“You have the colors turning and the background of the fall leaves coming from the Appalachians, which make our fall festival great,” says Aspen. “There is a pumpkin patch, and you can paint a pumpkin or pick one to take home. You can also go through our huge corn maze and, of course, the haunted maze in the evenings.”
The fall also brings dozens of school groups to Copper Creek as part of educational field trips, which take place on weekdays, so they don’t conflict with the festival. During a visit, students find out what it takes to run a farm, how you grow the corn and the pumpkins, how you milk the cows, and more.
“It is a great educational environment for the school kids,” Aspen adds.