In the third year returning to her hometown of Wessington Springs for the Shakespeare Garden Planting Festival and Blessing of the Garden, Lisa VanBockern, now of Tempe, AZ, looked forward to the peace and fellowship she experienced in previous years as she worked alongside family and friends planting and weeding.

“Growing up in Wessington Springs, I frequented Shakespeare Garden with my friends for a safe, secluded place away from our parents — it was a great place to play as child,” VanBockern remembers. “When it was suggested 10 years ago that it become my wedding venue, I thought it was a good idea. Little did I know how much work had been put into the garden since I’d been away. It was absolutely stunning.”

This year, VanBockern brought her three sisters to help and ended up with an unplanned reunion due to the many family members visiting from across the country for the Planting Festival.

Originally scheduled for May 22, the Blessing of the Garden was rained out and ultimately canceled. But the wet weather didn’t dampen the spirits of those traveling to Springs.

“We had an impromptu blessing of the garden by Les Patton,” VanBockern said. “Tamra Patton, of Lake Forest Park, WA took this picture —  that’s her half face in the foreground.”

VanBockern said that her cousins, Susan Dean, Ardell Arnott and Jacquie Arnott, originally asked her to attend the Planting Festival three years ago. 

“The details of the flowers and the evidence of upkeep was amazing. For three days I worked side by side with my cousins (and many others) planting, weeding, and telling stories of our lives,” she said. “The peacefulness and fellowship within the garden and my new relationships made for the the most relaxing and fulfilling vacation.”

VanBockern said that working in the garden each year only deepens her gratitude for the work that Shakespeare Garden Society volunteers take on for many months of the year. 

“I respect their hard work in creating a beautiful garden and beautiful relationships with all the other volunteers,” VanBockern said. “I am thankful for the dedication of the Shakespeare Garden committee, their work is remarkable.”

Others who traveled from her family for the festival were Les, Tamara and Tara Patton from Washington. Arlo and Marliece Tiede from Kansas. Jean, Minna, and Theresa VanBockern from Arizona.

Pictured from left to right is Paul Hoffman of Tempe AZ, Jacquie Arnott of Fort Walton Beach FL, Les Patton of Kenmore WA, Lisa VanBockern of Tempe Arizona, Ardell Johnson Valley Springs, SD, Tara Patton of Lake Forest Park WA, Jean Nelson and Minna Rasmussen from Sun Lakes, AZ and Trish Gulbranson of Tempe AZ. Tamra Patton, of Lake Forest Park, WA is shown in the foreground and is the photographer of this shot as well.