A blog that I follow, Culture Trip, popped up in my e-mail the other day with an article entitled: 15 Unbelievable Places You Probably Never Knew Existed in America . Of course I couldn’t resist the challenge to check it out. As it turned out, I actually was aware of several of them and had visited four. To my amusement, topping the list was “Skagit Valley Tulip Fields, Washington.”
Amusing to me because the tulip fields lie just 20 miles to the south of where I live and have been the subject of my own blog twice. (Tourists and Locals Love Tulip Time and A Trip to Skagit Valley’s Tulip Farms) I had already planned to make my re-entry this week to my blog about the tulip festival (after an absence due to my preoccupation with my duties as Executive Director for CASCADIA International Women’s Film Festival) . The idea was prompted by a notice that this weekend would be the last for the tulip festival this year. It’s always a little sad to learn that those beautiful flowers will be clipped and harvested starting tomorrow bringing an end to another display of fields of color.
I’m sure those who live in the immediate area are a little happy and relieved to see the month-long event come to a close as literally thousands of people are drawn to see the brilliant blooms causing residents to post ‘no parking’ signs along their property and take alternate routes to avoid the traffic back ups leading to and from the nearby freeway. For visitors, finding a place to park along the roadways becomes a challenge if you opt not to pay the fee asked by those with the lots. But it all seems worth the time and money spent to admire the planted ribbons of color and masterful landscaped gardens of the various growers.
Among the most popular of these farm stops is the RoozenGaarde owned by Washington Bulb Company. The company flourished under the ownership of William Roozen, a Dutch emigrant who purchased the business in 1955 from its original founders and the first bulb growers in the area, Joe Berger and Cornelius Roozekrans. Today, the Washington Bulb Company is the largest tulip-grower in the country with 350 acres of tulips and 70 million cut flowers shipped throughout the U.S. annually.
In addition, the company also plants 500 acres of daffodils (not nearly as much a draw as the tulips), 150 acres of iris and 600 acres of wheat (no one goes to see that.)
Someone, I can’t recall who, once told me that the tulips cultivated in the Skagit Valley when harvested are shipped to Holland where they are propagated then returned to the U.S. and marketed as “Dutch” tulips. Whether or not this is true or just legend I don’t know and haven’t, as a good journalist should, followed up to ask company officials.
The flowers were late this year due to an unusually longer cold spell of weather and didn’t come into full flourish until mid-April. The festival itself, begun in 1984 by the town of Mount Vernon, starts April 1st, regardless. What began as a three-day event now is a month-long celebration that includes not only self-guided visits to the fields, but a parade, a ‘tulip’ run,’ concerts and a street fair.
I’ve not seen the figures but I can only imagine what the economic impact of this highly attended annual festival has on the town and the surrounding area as people make the trek from all over the state and British Columbia just to take in the splendorous display by nature and the bulb farmers. Kind of nice to know that in this day and age of virtual reality and high-tech devices that people can still find such enjoyment and pleasure in what nature has to offer.
I didn’t make the trip down to the fields this year, opting instead to satisfy myself with the tulips growing in my own garden. But it’s likely I will, as in years, past, go again along with the thousands of others because the beauty of the tulip fields of Skagit Valley is still compelling no matter how many times you’ve seen them.