Lupine festival springs up in North Country

Pink and purple blooms are on full display in the North Country, where June is dedicated to a several-week lupine festival.

Purple, pink and blue lupines are springing up, and the North Country is blooming with colorful back roads and Granite State artistry.

The annual Fields of Lupine Celebration runs through June 22, but the highlight is this weekend with the open-air Lupine Festival Market on Main Street in Sugar Hill. Visitors on Saturday and Sunday will find jewelry, woodworking, quilts, gifts, preserves and other items from more than 70 vendors and local crafters. There are will be photography lessons, music, children’s activities, historical presentations and nature and craft demonstrations. Many events are free.

“It’s a busy weekend. The lupines are starting to bloom, and we’ve got maps of the back roads so people can go exploring the back roads and see the patches of lupine here and there,” Aldrich said.

The annual festival began in 1994 as a small grass-roots effort to bring visitors to Sugar Hill during June, the height of the flower’s blooming season. A few area businesses informally began to offer their wares while tourists admired the flowers.

Organizer Brenda Aldrich works in her family’s business, Harman’s Cheese and Country Store in Sugar Hill, where visitors first gathered in those early years.

“We started by having a couple of crafters sit on our porch and just demonstrate their craft. It was actually a gal who cut paper with sheep shears. She did that for years, or we’d have someone sampling their mustards,” Aldrich said. “It just grew. We got a few more crafters and a few more and a few more. The town of Sugar Hill noticed that we were running out of space on our lawn. So they told us we could use the lawns at the town building across from us. And we kept growing.”

Today the celebration is run by a committee of local residents and is sponsored through the Franconia Notch Regional Chamber of Commerce, the town of Sugar Hill, the Willing Workers, the Sugar Hill Improvement Association and other groups.

“We have over 70 vendors with a little bit of everything. You’ll find small New Hampshire-made businesses to White Mountain attractions up here,” Aldrich said.

“Over the weekend, there’s seven concerts. We have eight different sessions in a photography workshop. It’s free, so you can bring your camera. And then we have a New Hampshire humanities program talking about Abby Hutchinson from Milford. She was a world-famous singer in the 1880s,” Aldrich said.

On Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Master gardener Ruth Droescher with the UNH Cooperative Extension presents “Planting for Local Pollinators” at Sugar Hill Meetinghouse. On Sunday, from 11 a.m. to 12:30, Sara Glines will present “Northern NH History Through Family Stories” at the Carolina Crapo Memorial Building.

Steve Allen, owner of Sugar Hill Inn, talked about the lupine’s picture-perfect appeal as spring gives way to summer.

“They grow wild in these fields, and they’re just beautiful. People love to come up and take pictures,” Allen said. “There’s a mountain backdrop, so it’s really very scenic.”

Aldrich said when commercial farming slowed in the area, the lupines became more prolific.

“They’re mostly blues and purples, but you’ll see whites and yellows and pinks. The stipules can have a pink or red center, or they can have a yellow or white center. So there’s just a variety,” Aldrich said.

And though there may be some crowds this weekend, there is still plenty of room for everyone to take in the spring vistas this month.

“The lupines grow throughout the North Country. You see them on 90, as you come north on 93. The state has planted flower wildflower sections along 93, so you’ll see the lupines there. The lupines are scattered about our area. Because it’s cooler there (at Franconia Notch), (the flowers) will bloom later than the lupines on Sugar Hill,” Aldrich said.