Issue 54: Skagit Valley Tulip Festival

Northwest Washington’s Skagit Valley comes alive with brilliant color each spring. During the month of April Tom DeGoede opens up his bulb farm known as Tulip Town for the public to come and enjoy acres of colorful tulips, kites flying in the sky and visit booths with all kinds of items for sale.

Tom DeGoede immigrated from Holland in 1956 to join his two brothers to manage the Neal Noorlag Bulb Farm until 1983 when he purchased his business now known as Tulip Town. He and his wife of 48 years Jeannette put in a lot of seemingly tireless effort to make a strong agricultural statement. This becomes rapidly apparent when you step out on to the tulip fields. You can’t help but become mesmerized once you gaze upon the immense fields of vibrant color.

In 2003, Tom had the good fortune to visit his family in Holland. While he was there he saw the village windmill which is used to pump water from one canal to the next canal. Making such a strong impression on Tom, he decided to recreate that windmill in Tulip Town. Fortunately, Tom’s sister Nel was able to help out by getting the original blueprint of that windmill for him. Now an authentic reproduction of the windmill from Holland awaits photographic opportunities in the Peace Garden. The Peace Gardens began to sprout in the 1940’s because of a friendship made during WWII. To protect her from the war, Princess Juliana, heir to the Dutch crown, was taken to Canada to protect her during the war. After she had returned to Holland, she sent thousands of tulips back to Ottawa as a thank you gift. This practice began to catch on and now each year the tulip torch of friendship is passed from one country to another. There are currently 16 Peace Gardens in capitals around the world. “We thought it would be a beautiful thing to represent these gardens so we added 16 flags this year.” said Jeannette DeGoede. Beneath these flags there are flowers which bloom in red, white and blue. By the response from the crowd she was absolutely correct.

With a $4.00 admission for ages 16 and above, people of all ages make their way each year to Tulip Town to be a part of the magnificent festivities. You can meander through tulips by foot or there are tractor driven trolleys which can take you through the breathtaking fields of color. In the past, these trolleys were pulled by horses. They have been replaced by tractors so that the graceful ride can be slowed down allowing opportunities for the sights to be photographed or just taken in. In recent years, wheel chair access has also been added so everyone can come and enjoy. As you wander through the fields you’ll see people of all ages pointing out the vibrancy of everything that they see and commenting on the incredible beauty. Over 60 different varieties of tulips can be seen here. One of the tulip fields is planted with colors that represent the spectrum of a rainbow.

Inside there are even more attractions. The Tulip Café offers breakfast, lunch and dinner. You can relax inside or take your food out to the lawn and eat outside. Tulip Town features the only indoor flower and garden show. Great for those rainy days or when you need to warm up. There are truly amazing floral arrangements featuring not only tulips but also dahlias and other varieties of gorgeous flowers. The display is breathtaking and colorful. A wide variety of bulbs are available for purchase or they can be shipped to your favorite destination. Plenty of advice is available from experienced botanists for growing the bulbs and getting the most out of your garden.

At Michelle’s Espresso, you can pick up a cup of coffee, hot cocoa, tea or espresso. Plus other assortments of goodies such as a “to die for” berry pie, apple pie, chocolate cake, brownies and many more snacks.

A mural adorns the south wall painted by featured artist Jennifer Bowman that very well captures the essence of Tulip Town. Paintings, prints and posters can be purchased from their booth. The featured artists this year are Jennifer Bowman and Amy Melious.

Kids of all ages can have their face painted by some very talented artists. There are a number of different spring designs, animals, etc choose from.

Four Winds Kite Shop has a fantastic variety of wind socks, single line kites, dual line kites, yard art, along with many other toys to choose from. A sample table with various toys is setup for the kids to check out and play with. “We spend about a month preparing for this event.” says Erv Crosby owner of the kite shop. “We sell a lot of kites and yard art so we need to be ready.” One of the conveniences of having a kite shop in the facility is that you can buy a kite or any wind toy and step out to the designated kite flying field and fly them. In the air there are many kites from single line of various sizes from small to huge and artistic kites as well. Resting in a folding chair under a squadron of massive inflatable kites Mark Williams remarks, “A bad day out here beats the heck of any day at work! It’s tough but I’ve gotta do it.” There is a lot of enjoyment watching kids running around and laughing with their own smaller versions in the sky. All are welcome to come and fly their own kites or ones they purchased from the shop.

This year there was a guest of honor. iQuad assembled for a spectacular show and demonstration. As they flew in unison, the crowd was hypnotized and almost in a trance as the team created shapes and flew in tight formation. iQuad was greeted with applause as they would land their Revolution kites for a quick break. They made a fun time even more memorable with the beauty and talent that they added.

Tulip Town is not just a farm and a place to buy neat stuff but an exceptional experience. Over the course of a weekend up to 20,000 people will attend to relax and take in some Northwest tradition. The Tulip festival runs through the month of April. With all the splendor and majestic beauty it is easy to see why people return every year to enjoy Tulip Town. Come and enjoy the experience.

Ron Phipps