Heading north of Shreveport, an easy 45-minutes drive takes you to the Sunflower Trail & Festival in the small town of Gilliam, La. for a fun “day in the country.”

Along Highway 3049 in Gilliam, bright yellow sunflowers line the road and smile at the drivers. Motorists can stop by the sunflower fields for an up-close view of the radiant sunflower blooms.

On the way to the 19th annual Sunflower Trail & Festival, visitors can also stop on Sentell Road in the town of Dixie for a sunflower maze before continuing to Gilliam.

Candace Chaney Photography

The Red River Crossroads Historical Association (RRCHA), a non-profit association created in 1994 with the goal of preserving the history of northern Caddo Parish, sponsors the Sunflower Trail & Festival.

The President of the RRCHA, Karen Logan, has been involved in the planning of the Sunflower Trail & Festival for over 20 years and loves seeing the happy faces of visitors as they walk or drive through the trails.

“The words I like to use to describe the Sunflower Trail & Festival are ‘country family festival’ because families love bringing their children out of the city and to the country to look at the sunflowers, and they come back every year,” Logan said. “A few years ago, a couple got engaged in the beautiful sunflower field. It’s great to see so many people taking time from their routines in the city to come to the country, relax and enjoy our little town’s history.”

WildFlower Photography

Area farmers, volunteers and members of the community and RRCHA, including the Logan family, plant sunflower seeds each year at their homes and alongside the country roads to create the stunning and serene sunflower trails that Gilliam is known for.

Many guests like to scrapbook their visit and take part in the photography contest where friends and families snap photos and submit their favorite photo on the Sunflower Trail & Festival Facebook page. Pets are also welcome to come along on the trip and walk through the sunflower trails as long as they are on a leash.

Jamie Knippers Photography

“Visitors can stop on the edge of an open field or trail in Gilliam and easily walk through, stopping to take pictures with their families and pets,” Logan said. “They can even take a sunflower with them to remember the day. There are signs along the trail that mark easy-to-get-to spots to cut off a flower. People love to take photos with the sunflowers. There’s just something about being surrounded by the brightly-colored flowers that people enjoy, and it makes them happy.”

The Sunflower Trail & Festival started with farmer Gordon Boogaerts who, with a hobby for painting and photography, planted some sunflowers at his home (just south of Dixie) and invited friends to enjoy their beauty.

“People liked the idea so much that they started planting their own sunflowers,” Logan said. “Soon it became so well-liked that the Red River Crossroads decided to make the sunflower viewing into an annual event for more to enjoy.”

Studio B. Photography

In addition to walking through the sunflower trail, the festival offers crafts, music and food so visitors can get a sense of the country life in Gilliam and its surrounding towns.

Participants can enjoy craft vendors who have handmade unique arts and décor for the home and lawn, local restaurants where they can savor good country cuisine, local music groups and blues bands for entertainment, a children’s art and activities table, and a clown who sculpts balloons for the kiddies. There will also be food vendors set up around the activities selling tasty treats like hot dogs and snow cones.

The National Sunflower Association (NSA) states that the sunflower (scientific name Helianthus Annuus) is a wild North American flower that was domesticated first by the American Indians. The NSA explains that the sunflower was cultivated by American Indians around 3000 BC in what is now Arizona and New Mexico. They used the seeds from the sunflowers in cakes and breads and mixed them with beans and corn for meals. The dyes from the plant were used as body paints and decoration, the oil for medicines and the stalks as building materials. 

Did you know that sunflower seeds are used in oils for cooking and also make a perfect snack when the seeds are roasted? They can also be placed in feeders for birds to eat. Just like peanuts are used to make peanut butter, sunflower seeds can also be used to make sunflower butter, a great alternative for anyone with peanut allergies (and it tastes great, too!).

Info:

9 a.m. to 3 p.m. June 17 

Admission is free. 

Directions: From downtown Shreveport, drive north on Clyde Fant Memorial Parkway. Just north of the casinos, Clyde Fant veers to the left and changes to Grimmett Drive. From Grimmett Drive, turn right onto LA Hwy 3049 (Dixie Shreveport Road).

For more information about the Sunflower Trail & Festival, visit redrivercrossroadshistorical.org or the Sunflower Trail & Festival Facebook page at facebook.com/sunflowertrail.

Featured restaurants

Main Street Restaurant

12807 Main St., Gilliam
Enjoy delicious food in one of the old brick store buildings.

The Wild Petunia

408 Caddo St., Belcher
Tea room style lunch
will be served.

Adger’s Store

12781 Main St., Gilliam
Sandwiches, cold drinks and snack items.

D&I General Store

312 Caddo St., Belcher

Country Café and merchandise