- Associated Press - Friday, July 15, 2016

AUTAUGAVILLE, Ala. (AP) - In what once was a quiet little corner of Autauga County, an Internet sensation is growing, literally.

When Todd Sheridan planted 42 acres of sunflowers in his field at the intersection of Highway 14 and Autauga County Road 33, he knew it would get some attention.

“I had no idea it would develop into something like this,” he said Wednesday afternoon, standing in the field that is about six miles west of Autaugaville.

The acres and acres of golden flowers have been popular on social media. Facebook and Twitter posts abound of snapshots of the flowers. Over the past two weeks or so, a steady stream of vehicles pull up to this spot and occupants pile out with smiles on their faces.

Couples have used the backdrop to make engagement and “We’re Expecting!” announcements. Little girls, with freshly scrubbed faces wearing their best summer frocks, stand impatiently as beaming grandparents fuss and pose, looking for that perfect shot.

Sheridan and his wife, Kim, are taking all the fuss in stride.

“I figured folks driving to and from Selma on (Highway) 14 would probably take a few pictures,” he said, motioning to the farm’s barn just across the road from the field. “But I pulled up this morning at about daylight and there were four cars parked over here. When we’re up at the barn you look over and there is just car after car.

“We are really enjoying it. Everyone is welcome to take pictures. We are just asking that no one cuts or picks the flowers. They are our livelihood.”

Maggie Hood and her husband, Justin, made the trip Wednesday afternoon to the field from their home in Slapout. They brought along their daughters, Lacy, 3 and Lily, 1. And as if following the script, the girls were wearing brightly colored dresses.

“Thank y’all so much for letting everyone do this!” Maggie Hood said, after being introduced to the Sheridans. “I love sunflowers. I saw these pictures on Facebook and knew we had to come over here.”

The Sheridans are welcoming hosts. One lady walked up with a camera atop a tripod.

“Is this your property?” she asked Kim Sheridan nervously, as if not knowing what kind of reception she would receive.

“Yes ma’am!” Kim Sheridan beamed. “You’re welcome to take all the pictures you want. These up here by the gate are wilting. There are some better ones down there on the edge of the field.

“And there are some real pretty ones in the middle of the field. You can go anywhere you want. We just ask you to be careful and watch where you walk if you go out in the field.”

Folks still wanting to make the pilgrimage have a little time. Todd Sheridan plans to begin harvesting the field around the first of September. The seeds will go to a processor in Georgia where they will be pressed to make cooking oil. What’s leftover will go to make livestock feed.

The hot, dry afternoons of late have wilted the flowers. Todd Sheridan suggests waiting until after a few good rains if people want to see the sunflowers in their whole glory. Otherwise the cool, early morning hours are best, he says.

“We put little ol’ Autaugaville on the map with sunflowers,” Todd Sheridan said with a grin while shaking his head. “Who would have thought that?”

___

Information from: Montgomery Advertiser, https://www.montgomeryadvertiser.com

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