FALLS CREEK – Sunflowers and a good cause lined up this past weekend as Heberling’s Sunflower Field opened to the public for the first time.
Cody McClintick opened up the field in Falls Creek to honor his mother, Cynthia Heberling McClintick, who passed away in January from cancer.
“My mother battled cancer for 12 years,” McClintick said. “We’re starting a scholarship in her honor. The money made here will go to the scholarship and to keeping up the field.”
The sunflower field did not start out as a memorial to McClintick’s mother. Two years ago, McClintick was going to start it to honor his grandfather, John Heberling Sr. The farm used to have a strawberry field, which is where McClintick put the sunflower field.
“It’s 6 acres,” McClintick described. “There are paths to walk and people can take their own pictures.”
McClintick said that planting the field takes a lot of work, so this year will be a short year, only opening for as much of the month as possible. In the future, he hopes to space out the 6 acres so that sections will bloom longer in the summer.
“I’d say the way we plant the sunflowers is unique,” McClintick said. “The lifespan of a sunflower is usually only a month or so, depending on weather. I can’t say we’ll be open the whole month of August, because the weather. We open when the sunflowers are blooming.”
McClintick said the sunflowers take around two months to bloom and then stay open for a month. “It’s a month for them to bloom, so that’s how much time we have. It’s roughly 65 days from planting before they’re ready to bloom.” For him, cultivating the sunflowers was a spiritual experience.
“When I raised them that first year, I felt like my grandpa was there with me,” he said. “Now, after my mom died, I feel like she’s there with me.”
The first weekend was a good kickoff for the Cynthia Kaye “Cindi” Heberling McClintick Memorial Scholarship. Days in August will be set aside for other scholarships as well, including the scholarship honoring Shane Horner.
“I hope we get enough money to offer scholarships in schools other than Brockway,” McClintick said. “But, for now, we want to offer it to Brockway graduates.”
McClintick graduated from Brockway in 2016.
Prior to opening, local seniors came to the field to take senior pictures. McClintick said that people have been very positive about the experience.
The field, located on Beechtree Road, is open Mondays and Fridays at 5 p.m., and Saturdays and Sundays at 4 p.m. It closes at dark. The cash-only entry fee is $5 for adults and $2 for kids 12 and under. Senior photography sessions are $30 per hour on days the field is not open to the public, and they have $100 wedding photography available. During the weekend, Kory McConnell was doing photography for anyone interested. Visitors can cut a sunflower for $1.
McClintick has big plans for next year, but this year still has many dates open for people to come and explore. He said to keep an eye on the Heberling’s Sunflower Field Facebook page to see if weather impacts opening.
“I’m thankful for the support the community has given us so far,” McClintick said. “A lot of people said they’re excited for next year. More are coming out a second time this year.”