Pilot story and photos

by Bill Schlichting

Flora Pacifica celebrated the first day of summer Saturday when it hosted its annual Mid-Summer's Day Herb Fest.

Nearly 500 people attended the all-day event at the floral-products manufacturing business on Oceanview Drive.

People had the opportunity to buy herbs and flowers, browse through crafts provided by about 18 vendors, have gardening questions answered by Oregon State University Master Gardeners, take tours of the facility, listen to live music, take a class and eat Japanese-style Hawaiian food.

Cherie Mitchell, co-owner of the business along with her husband Don and Jeff and Connie Gallemore, said she was pleased with the event. Many of the crafters who had vendor booths also were happy. They reported sales improved over previous years.

andquot;Vendors that have been coming for years said they did very well,andquot; Mitchell said of the event that has happened since the mid 1990s.

People seemed to enjoy the tours. The first tour, led by Jeff Gallemore, took participants through the herb gardens. Questions were asked about how the plants are used for food and medicines, and how to propagate them.

Information was also given about herbal folklore.

Mitchell said that because of Gallemore's efforts, the herb garden has evolved to needing little labor - mostly just watering. She encouraged anyone interested in growing herb gardens to learn from his success.

Mitchell's son, Dennis Mitchell, gave a tour of the preservation facilities. Cherie Mitchell said he built a lot of the equipment and, as a chemist, devised methods of economizing the chemical solutions. Dennis Mitchell's enterprising tools for his trade include a chicken plucker, hot tubs, a washer and dryer, and woodshop equipment for preparing and preserving vegetation.

andquot;Making wreaths and preserving plants is the biggest facet of our business,andquot; Cherie Mitchell said. Flora Pacifica's products are sold in six catalogs in addition to their own. Products are shipped nationwide.

Festival participants were able to buy food, soft drinks and desserts from Malia's Kitchen, owned by Chuck and Malia Medina. The former restaurateurs are limiting their business to festivals now that they are retired.

Mitchell said the Medinas set up their food trailer early to cater to vendors setting up before the festival.

andquot;They stayed until the bitter end,andquot; Mitchell said.

People wanting to relax were treated to music provided by the Jefferson State Boon Dock Band and a bluegrass duo.

A class on making lavender wreaths and wands was taught by Ann Moore and her daughter Michelle Moore. Because the class filled quickly, Mitchell said she plans to scheduled two classes for next year's event.

Classes are scheduled throughout the year at the businesses. A seagrass and reed basket class scheduled today (June 28) is full.

Future classes include making:

?July 19 - Fresh culinary herb wreaths;

?July 26 - Kelp pouches;

?Aug 23 - Seagrass baskets;

?Aug. 30 - Kelp pouches;

?Sept. 9 - Weaving sea kelp;

?Sept. 13 - Dried floral swags;

?Sept. 27 - Kelp pouches;

?Oct. 11 - Harvest wreaths;

?Dec. 13 - Christmas decorations.

For information, call (541) 469-9741.

Mitchell also announced that on Aug. 10, Flora Pacifica will celebrate its 12th birthday, which will include a picnic, activities, garden tours and special speakers. Reservations are required for lunch.