Festival honors vivid, useful bloomsIt’s a summer tradition for young girls and women to dye their fingernails with garden balsam flowers, a natural manicure to show off their pretty hands.
By grinding the petals of garden balsam ― in shades of red, pink, purple and bright orange ― and mixing them with vinegar, women wrap their fingers with plastic bags filled with the solution and then sleep. The next day, their fingernails are dyed a brilliant hue that lasts for a good month.
Next week, the city of Chungju will host the Garden Balsam Flower Festival where visitors can revel in a 1-hectare (2.4-acre) flower field filled with garden balsam flowers. People can pick the flowers, create flower bracelets and necklaces and dye their fingernails.
The village of Eryu will also host part of festival, and visitors can make special food patties decorated with garden balsam, whose leaves are edible. Tourists can also take a walk in a tunnel decorated with gourds. In addition, visitors can dye scarves and handkerchiefs with garden balsam flowers to see how dyes were made long ago.
Visitors can take home as many flowers as they wish, and they can preserve them in a freezer so the dye water can be used year round. On the grounds where the main event will be held, more than 40 types of wild flowers will also be displayed for visitors to view and photograph. Tables and parasols will be available for visitors who want to have a picnic.
Other events include a poetry recital, a performance by the baritone Lee Young, traditional performances such as the instrumental music of peasants, called nongak, and samulnori, a traditional folk dance.
“Garden balsam flowers are usually found in small numbers in the gardens of rural country homes,” said Pastor Hwang Dae-seong, one of the founders of the festival. “With the effort of residents of Chungju, we were able to create a large flower field which shows the beauty of nature.”
Garden balsam flowers bloom at the end of June and then die after the frost in autumn. In early August, the Chungju Lake Festival will also showcase garden balsam flowers.
While in Chungju, a two-hour drive from Seoul, visitors can see Chungju Lake and the Central Tower Park with various sculptures and artwork.
A Goguryeo monument also lies near the city as well as Chungryeolsa temple where the famous General Lim Gyeong-op, a 17th century officer from the Joseon era who fought heroically against Ming Dynasty invaders, is honored.
The Fourth Chungju Garden Balsam Festival will be held on July 29 and 30 in Chungju, South Chungcheong province. For more information call (043) 848-3973/3953.
by Choi Jie-ho
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