Tue, Nov 07, 2017 - Page 3 News List

Festival organizer hopes flowers will lure tourists

THE IDEA COUNTS:Huang Chun-tang, who has been working to beautify his hometown, said that even if tourists would stay way, it was the creation that counts

By Hua Meng-ching and Jonathan Chin  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Taipei resident Huang Chun-tang, center, poses for a photograph with students from Wuhe Elementary School in Hualien County’s Ruisui Township on Oct. 27.

Photo: Hua meng-ching, Taipei Times

Taipei resident Huang Chun-tang (黃群棠) regularly travels to Hualien County’s Ruisui (瑞穗), his hometown, to cultivate fields of flowers and organize music festivals that he hopes could promote tourism to the area.

Huang, 39, said he dreams of a day when Rusui could boast of a unique flowery scenic attraction that would bring tourists from around the world, similar to his source of inspiration, the so-called Patchwork Road on the Japanese island of Hokkaido.

“It is okay not to have Chinese tourists, so long as Taiwanese create something unique for themselves,” Huang said, referring to a drop in the number of Chinese visitors to Hualien.

Last summer, Huang organized his first flower-themed music festival on a 3,000 hectare parcel of fallow farmland that he persuaded a local farmer to lend him for free.

Using his own money, he sowed the field with sunflowers that bloomed in season for the festival, after schoolchildren from the township’s Wuhe Elementary School (舞鶴) helped him with the planting, Huang said.

Inspired by the Japanese road, he later replanted the field with alternating bands of yellow rapeseed flowers, red zinnias and orange chrysanthemums, Huang said.

In January, Huang organized a second music-and-flower event at the field, named the Ruisui Tropic of Cancer International Music Festival, after the nearby monument, and featuring local musicians.

The East Rift National Scenic Area Office helped promote the event with an online ad campaign and Huang was commended by township representative Chen Liao-an (陳廖安), he said, adding that shortly after the festival this year, the field’s owner took it back for farming, and Huang had to reconceptualize his project and look for an alternative site.

Later, he discovered that the Taiwan Railways Administration owns parcels of land by the rail tracks in Ruisui, Huang said.

As the railroad administration was not using those small or oddly shaped plots, he lobbied it to let him beautify them with flowers, he said, adding that his request was granted with some help from Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴).

Since late last month, he has been sowing the plots with rapeseed to test the soil’s suitability for floriculture before using seeds donated by the township farmers’ co-operation, Huang said.

Huang has also been distributing sunflower seeds to local residents and public schools interested in beautifying the town, he said.

“Since I left home to work in Taipei, I learned that county and city governments all over the country are working hard to revitalize their communities. In comparison, my hometown seems to be left behind in all this,” he said. “The community needs to create and sustain a themed scenic attraction to have a vibrant tourism industry. I am not doing this to get to rich. I simply want my hometown to be better and personal profit is not my concern.”

He said he remains optimistic that when Hualien’s visitors pass Ruisui by train next year, the township will be ready to greet them with brilliant fields of flowers.

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