Issue 60: Skagit Valley Tulip Festival

Well, we sometimes find ourselves flying kites in strange places. But the place where Team iQuad found themselves flying this weekend certainly wasn’t the strangest place we’ve ever flown!  And to tell you the truth, all 5,000 or so paying customers were so excited to see the Sport Kites together with the Tulips, and were so accepting of the delights they found in sport kites out there in the tulip fields, that it was hard to see much real difference between our fellow Kiters and the flower-lovers. And after a half hour or so, it just seemed so natural for us to fly there at Tulip Town, right there in the middle of all of Skagit Valley’s tulip farms!

It all began last year. Team iQuad had accepted an invitation from Irv Crosby of The Four Winds Kite Shop in Everett, WA to come north to fly kites at Tulip Town some weekend, so iQuad went up there almost on a lark – and had a BALL!  They flew all weekend long, and thousands of customers paid to get into Tulip Town to see tulips growing live in the fields!  Well, shucks! The team decided to put on a “show” for the visitors, of course. Well, Tom and Jeannette De Goede own the Skagit Valley Bulb Farm – also known as “Tulip Town” – and Tom happened by while iQuad was entertaining his customers.

Tom liked what he saw, and he liked it well enough to offer some money for transportation and lodging next year.  So this year finds Team iQuad with a commitment to travel out to the Skagit Valley on the second weekend in April and fly in the Tulip patch again.  And Tom De Goede, “Mayor” of Tulip Town, and Irv and Gail Crosby, Owners of Four Winds Kite Shop, and all of Team iQuad couldn’t be more pleased with the whole idea…

So, I take off on Friday from Vancouver, driving solo since Theresa has to stay in town and work in The Kite Shoppe this weekend. No matter – the car is full of cameras and kites, I have my down jacket “just in case,” there are decent restaurants everywhere, and there’s a room reserved for me at the Day’s Inn in Mount Vernon.  I’m set.  I stop in Kirkland, WA and find a table in the bar at the Olive Garden and have myself a hearty dinner – then wend my way the 40 miles further to Mount Vernon and check into the Day’s Inn.  It’s a decent enough room, so I use the cell-phone and call John Barresi to find out where iQuad is.  It turns out they’re eating dinner at a local Mexican place a block’s walk away.  Okay – I’m reconnected again.  Ain’t cell-phones useful little gadgets?

I’d told John before we left home that I had a spare bed in my room to use if anyone needed it, and it turns out that I already had a roommate.  Good!  It just didn’t make good sense to me to be sleeping in a room all by myself when someone else might be curled up on a hunk of carpet in someone else’s room down the hall. And my new friend, Terry Wiggill, from Vancouver Island up in British Columbia was just a delightful guy to share a room with.  He didn’t snore or throw his socks in the sink or exhibit any other objectionable behavior, and I certainly hope he found me equally acceptable.  Anyway, Terry thought enough of the whole deal that he wanted to split the cost of the room with me at the end of the weekend.  That sure works for me, Terry – and “Thanks.”

So we bedded down easily and awoke some seven hours later, refreshed and rarin’ to go!  Okay – a stop at Mr. Tee’s for breakfast on the way through Mount Vernon to Tulip Town didn’t hurt either!  And a single hour from the bed to the flying field is pretty good time for a gaggle of kite pilots, too!

Naturally, the day is overcast when we arrive, and is threatening rain.  In addition (perhaps “subtraction” is a better word?), the wind is decidedly in the “iffy” range, and is coming in from about 360 degrees or thereabouts. Still, there’s a decent likelihood that it’ll clear around noon and we’ll have decent winds from some steady direction or other.  Good enough, because we’ve certainly found some worse flying conditions on occasion. Besides, nobody here at Tulip Town knows that much about what to expect from the kitefliers, so anything above nothing will probably just be a definite “plus.”

Team iQuad assembles a bunch of Revolution kites and lays them out to get wet.  It’s not quite a real “rain,” just a minor mist…  And some iQuad folks go inside to make sure the Espresso stand gets enough income to survive for another day.  Then everyone goes outside again and “gets into it!”  Might just as well fly as stand around in the rain and wish we had – so they do it!  A little of it’s working off the “sleepies” (or the extra large breakfast that Mr. Tee’s has provided), but most of iQuad’s motivation is just that plain old “work ethic.” They all want to be ready when the crowd arrives, because they’ll start coming in very shortly now.  And pretty soon they do, too…

After about an hour of “team practice” maneuvers, it’s time for a quick potty break, a re-run on the espresso, and maybe a smoke and a little discussion about what they want to do with the day. The field is very acceptable with the grass mown short (last year it was a “farm cut” – meaning about 4”-6” high), and there’s enough breeze for us to fly, so how do we want to work this?  So there’s a “conference” break, too…

By this time, I’m already over hanging with the Single Liners, including Steve Tish…  I first met Steve on the same field a year ago, and we had a fine time together.  I ended up taking some decent photos of a pair of Steve’s Premier Pterodactyls and sent the photo-series off to him.  Then we re-met at WSIKF and renewed / enlarged our friendship, so it was a delight to get spend a little time with Steve again.

And Mark and the other “resident” single liners were out there as well, trying valiantly to keep several large Suttons in the air – even though the breeze wouldn’t quite support them – at least not consistently enough to stay aloft for more than 5-10 minutes…  They would continually fight that same marginal-wind battle throughout the weekend, and I think the maximum Sutton Aloft record for the whole pair of days came to something around an hour.  Beyond that, it was wander out into the back 40 and try to fill the thing up with air and hope for enough flow for it to rise steadily, if slowly, and attain the altitude where “steady air” lives.  Not to worry, however.  These guys had everything from Genkis to Roks to Deltas up there, and the kites all drifted down when the breeze turned to vapors and then died out completely.

By the way, I actually thought that Steve Tish was pretty darned smart.  He hung all his Pterodactyls (He now owned a flock of five of ‘em) from the ends of banner poles, so that they simply hung down when the wind dropped off – and were self-launching when it picked up again.  Pretty darned neat, if you ask me! Meanwhile, Steve sat there in his lawn chair and watched all that other activity going on around him.  Awfully savvy, Dude!

As for me, I tired of all this fairly quickly, and back in the iQuad camp, they were all on coffee break, standing around with cups and discussing weather and what kites to fly, and what this summer’s Festival (ever changing) travel schedule looked like.  So maybe it was time for a bathroom stop, a refill on my own coffee, a turn through the kite shop in the Tulip Town “Mall,” and a gentle wander through all the shops and exhibits.  Time to take in some local color, I guess.

And I quickly dispatched with the necessities, bought a spool of line from Gail at the kite shop, refilled my coffee cup and wandered a bit – only to discover TULIPS!!!  Well, gosh… was that any surprise really?  It turns out that the Skagit Valley Bulb Farm (the corporate entity behind Tulip Town) doesn’t just lets people tour the fields for their entry fee.  They also let you BUY some of those nice Tulips, too.  In my case, they let me buy three 4” pots of tulips for $20.00, and I left my Tulip pots outside in a basket separate from all of the farm’s stock. Nice lady “Kathy” assured me that nobody would bother them there, and that way they wouldn’t have to overnight in the car.  Then I’d load ‘em up just before I put the kite van on the road on Sunday, and they’d not suffer any damage from being “inside.”  It made sense to me, so I did it that way – and by the time I was done with all of this, it was already time for my lunch.  So – back into the mall again I headed and got a cheeseburger, some fries, and a coke.  Yup – Good old standard American on-the-road lunch fare!

Back out on the field, the Tulip “viewing” crowd was growing – not quite to the point where it was “overwhelming” yet, but it seemed like it’d get there before long. If you get a couple of thousand folks out in the middle of a farm field, it sure looks like a lot of people!  The weather’d cleared, the breeze had steadied up out of the West Northwest, and the sun was pretty much there to stay, except for the occasional puffy cloud drifting by. And iQuad was busy flying “for real” now… all their fancy-pantsy stuff, the Twists and turns and iQuad’s patented “Blue Angels” kind of precision formation flying.  It’s kinda awesome to see them do this kind of stuff, and especially since I knew they weren’t completely “warmed up” yet… Still, they had a crowd they were already “holding captive,” with a promise of more folks to come.

Well, with flyable wind and the sun out, maybe I could talk iQuad into going over to the other side of the field – where the Tulips grew!  Perhaps a few camera shots with the kites flying (flowing?) over those fancy rows of color! So I approached John and gave him a little nudge in that direction.  There’s no sense hanging around your empty corner of the field when you can get right in there “with it” over by the Tulips!  So they began to fly their kites across the field, drawing more and more attention to iQuad as they went!

Once there, they maneuvered right into the front – between the crowd and the tulip fields – and began a series of low swoops and passes just above the tulip blooms.  Gosh, that looked pretty – so I banged off a few more shots before I turned around, and… discovered that everyone who had a camera with them had seen exactly what I’d seen happening with iQuad’s kites and the tulips, and they were busy shooting exactly the same shots!

Well, it was time for me to get out of the way.  iQuad, and the crowd, and all those lovely tulips, they didn’t any of them need my help. I was just getting in the way!  So I hauled stakes, and ended up back behind the crowd for a few more “crowd” shots.  And Barresi and the boys didn’t last too long at the field’s edge either. Heck, if they backed up a bit, they could fly right above the crowd!  And they’d also already be there then next time one of Tom De Goede’s “Tulip Town Trolleys” came rolling by – and it’s really kinda fun to park your Rev on the roof of one of those Trolley wagons.  And it’s even MORE fun if you can get the whole team parked up there with you!

So Team iQuad settled in and started really working the crowd very well.  Trolley passes, touches, and landings when there was a wagon passing by.  Otherwise, it was “Fly For The People” time… Flirt with ‘em.  Up Close and Personal time with a Revolution kite – and hover for the cameras, please. One-on-One Seduction by Kite! Then join up with the team again and fly the pretty precision patterns.  Do circles and bursts.  Just simple “Follows,” in a lazy “8” pattern, would bring out the crowd’s “Oooos and Ahhhhs.” And when things got too slow, maybe some of the other maneuvers that iQuad’s put together would draw their attention back to the kites.  So it went for most of the next few hours…  Sure, there were occasional bathroom breaks and the maybe a sip or two of water, but with glorious sun, decent breezes, and an appreciative crowd, the world was just lovely for iQuad – and for Tom De Goede’s customers too!

And… GOSH, all those Tulips were sure pretty!

Now, lest you think that Tulips and iQuad were the only things there worth mentioning…

Amy Doran had driven up to bring us a few moments of Charlie Chaplin – and she also happened to bring Panda along – the smartest dog on earth! Steve Tish still had his favorite flock of Pterodactyls hangin’ by his Pop-Up.  And the rest of the SLK folks had lots of fine kites aloft and flying well, too. And then there’s that bunch of Canadians that slipped across the border early this morning – Cal Yuen, and Aiyana Markling, and several others fliers, too.  There were a bunch of them, including my roommate Terry Wiggill, out there working out the kinks in Quad-Line kites and Dual-Liners too.  I think I even saw a Canadian Quad-Line TEAM flight going on out on the field a time or two…  And Erv and Gail Crosby did okay in kite sales back there in the Mall, I’m certain!  Yep – there was lots going on…

So I wandered the Tulip fields, shot what I could, talked with all and sundry, and pretty much kept out of the way of folks enjoying themselves.  Time to just let this fine day carry itself – especially since I couldn’t change it much.  The last thing I needed to do was me getting in the way of folks enjoying their very pleasant Saturday afternoon!

But, eventually the day came to an end. Tom and the gang shoos everyone out and closes the gates in time for his dinner.  And I must say, all of the fliers were ready for some sit-down, a decent meal, and perhaps a drink or two as well.  So we finally wrapped it all up, stowed it away, and headed for a nice place to chow down and relax.

I chose not to join the iQuad-heads for Thai food that evening and ended up driving around Mount Vernon looking for a good solo meal instead.  After finding what I thought would be a good meal at a restaurant (that will go unnamed) that served me a terrible meal, I finally ended up eating at Denny’s for my second try… Certainly not my favorite, but it sure beat my going hungry, if only by a little bit!  Then it was back to the Day’s Inn and time for a little ease watching the Mariners game, followed by a long rest with a bed and pillow and without lights. Tomorrow’s another day!

And, sure enough – it was another day.  And not nearly so “pretty” a day, either!  Still, iQuad was here in Mount Vernon, and they’d fly regardless of the weather.  Still, those of us who live in the Northwest have about had our fill of cold drizzle down the back of our necks – and that’s what it was, too.

So – with bellies full of Mr. Tee’s eggs and hashbrowns, and windshield wipers clacking away – we pulled into the driveway at Tulip Town right on time.  We had to nose out way in the gate past a couple of Tom’s paying customers, waiting to get into the parking lot. I even thought we were the first ones on the place, until we got inside the mall and discovered the nice espresso lady there – all ready to keep us “fortified up” for lousy weather.

Within a few minutes, Steve Tish and his bride pulled in, and announced that since today was his birthday, breakfast was on him.  I guess he successfully evaded those who wanted him go pay their breakfast tab at Mr. Tee’s, but he DID provide 3-4 boxes full of extraordinary donuts and baked goods. WOW – nothing like a healthy dose of sugar to keep the juices flowing in this kind of weather.  So for the remainder of the day, Team iQuad and the other pilots kept hovering around his pop-up, and chowing down on some incredible eats.

Still, I figured it was way too wet to drag the cameras out in this slop, and that’s especially true since nobody seem to have much hustle to get out and fly! Yeah, the iQuad VW Vanagon belonging to Steve De Roiij did pull up in their assigned spot, and there were several kites out of their bags and out “soaking.”  Still, nobody seemed to be in too much of a rush to get rolling.

I stopped and had a brief conversation with Erv Crosby, the organizer of this whole affair.  He was doing all right, considering all of the circumstances.  And while I was there, Tom De Goede, “The Mayor of Tulip Town” by his own admission, walked up and introduced himself to me.  Well, we chatted a bit, all the time stealing a few glances at the heavens – and the stuff falling from them.  That was when Tom informed me he’d had more paying customers through Tulip Town yesterday (meaning that Saturday) than he’d ever had! Yeah – nobody much liked today’s weather, but Tom was sure pretty pleased about yesterday’s turn-out!  I guess he credited a bit of that to Team iQuad, so I certainly wasn’t going to be the one to down-play iQuad’s contributions. Frankly, I was just glad everyone enjoyed the show and had a little fun.

Still, I figured that “dry” might be a good choice about now, so I lit out for the Tulip Town Mall! Yup, I was right – it WAS more amenable in there!  So I hunted up Tulip-seller Kathy and bought another three 4” pots of Tulips for land-lady Theresa.  Now, I don’t want you to get the wrong idea, here. While I like Theresa just fine, I knew that I’D enjoy them too – and besides, when I go to a kite event, I always “shop local” – meaning I buy from the businesses that are supporting the kite event!  Think about it, and it’ll just make good sense to you.  Anyway, I ended up with $40.00 worth of Tulips and $5.00 worth of 30# line I’d purchased from Gail at the Four Winds Kite Shop. Not too bad, considering I’ve been known to buy multiple kites at events!

So I headed back out to my vehicle to see if all was well, and decide whether or not it’d make sense to get “out in it.”  Nope – it was still too darned wet and sloppy out there.  Okay, maybe another nice “sweet” from Steve Tish’s Birthday contributions – to go with my now lukewarm espresso from the stand inside.  So I sat and observed and mused on the whole situation.

It looked like the weather would clear somewhat, but when that would happen was anyone’s guess.  Of more immediate concern was the fact the there was even less wind than we’d had yesterday.  iQuad had their Ultra-Lights out, since it was likely that’s all that could fly, even given iQuad’s acknowledged skill at flying Revolutions in “marginal” air.  The SLK folks, however, were another story altogether.  Lines were strung out everywhere, and there’d even been kites in the air a time or two, but they were all on the grass – masquerading as doormats at the moment.  And from the looks of ‘em, they’d been there a while, too! All five of Steve’s Pterodactyls were hanging from their banner-poles, nearly inverted and looking like they were drinking from the skies. And I didn’t envy those folks who’d valiantly try to cram one of those Suttons back into the bag – all wet and soggy.  Oops – did I say “Five” Pterodactyls?  I turns out that Steve’s wife had been for a stroll and discovered another one lolly-gagging around in the Four Winds Kite Shop in Tulip Town, so Steve was now the proud owner of a six-pack of dripping soggy Pterodactyls!  Happy Birthday, Steve!

Well, gosh!  I wasn’t about to take my cameras out and subject them to the drizzle.  I was also a bit dismayed that there wasn’t an SLK kite aloft.  And it turns out that I had a new kite I’d never flown that I’d purchased from Paul de Bakker at the Lincoln City Indoor (see the other report HERE).  So I got the “Skate” out of the van and hooked on the 30# line I’d bought from Gail, added the requisite “nickel” for balance (Yup – 5 cents, goes into a pocket in the nose), and put the Skate into the air.  Zowwie!  Right up to the zenith in something like a half a mile per hour breezes!  It must have all of 3-4 pounds of pull, and flies steady as a rock. WOW, did I fall in instant LOVE with that kite – and so did about 4-5 other SLK pilots who wanted to know all about it!

So we brought it down and showed it around… and let them all take a turn on the line – as if darned close to “no pull” and “Gibraltar stable” was some sort of novelty!  We also watched the Skate when a few “puffs” of 3-5 MPH came past too, and darned if the leading edges didn’t just flex with the increased wind, keeping the kite in perfect symmetry and rock-steady in flight!  Then I was REALLY impressed!  And I mean, impressed enough so I went to van, grabbed a camera, and chanced the elements in order to get a couple of shots of an airborne Skate!

Finally, the wind came up a bit and all the “Curious Georges” figured NOW might be a good time to retry those Suttons and deltas and genkis again.  And after a while the six-pack was wobbling but almost up on a plane, and one-by-one, the rest of the SLKs would eventually climb into the heavens too.  Time to bring the Skate in, since it was specifically designed as an indoor “glider” (TWO nickels in the nose puts it into glider-mode), and there were finally other kites in the air, and seeming like they could stay aloft for a few moments.  So I brought her in and laid her on the back deck in the van to dry.

A quick glance showed iQuad, about 100’ away, all huddled together like a football team around the door of Steve de Roiij’s Vanagon.  Gosh, there was “air” out there!  Why weren’t they flying?  So I sauntered down to get a look-see. It turns out they were hot into a discussion of their “big idea” for the day.  Did I remember seeing a blue helicopter flying overhead off and on all afternoon yesterday?  Well yes, of course I did!  Well, they’d thought it might be fun if someone would take the video-camera and go for a helicopter ride to photograph Team iQuad from above in all this riotous Tulip color.  So they’d called the chopper-jockeys on the cell-phone, and they were set to go if only I (me) would take Steve De Roiij’s girlfriend, Willow, over to the chopper’s flight pad!  Would I please do that?

Well, I guess it sure beats standing around in the rain, so Willow and I hoped in the van, we skirted all of the kite-lines spread out everywhere (they were back on the ground again), and we snuck out the back way to avoid going through the parking lot and dealing with all those people.  Now Willow isn’t particularly a “shy” girl to begin with, but she spent the entire trip to the chopper absolutely “gushing” about what a thrill this was going to be for her, since she’d never eben been in a helicopter before! And in about 5 minutes, we were at a poured concrete ramp at the end of a dirt road, and Willow was giving the fine folks at the chopper company her money.  So we had about a 5-10 minute wait for the machine to show up, and then she was out climbing into a beautiful little Enstrom F2BF chopper for her ride over Tulip Town and iQuad.  The weather wasn’t awful, and Willow could probably shoot iQuad just fine, but photo conditions were far from ideal for this kinda stuff, too.

Within 15 minutes they were back.  I’d given Willow a couple of extra $20.00 bills, because I sorta knew that she didn’t have enough money to cover all the cost she was going to incur, and I guess we did just fine on the guesses part because I got less than $10.00 back from Willow.  And then it was a repeat on the way back to Tulip Town – with Willow “gushing” all the way, of course.  It seems that helicopter flight is only about 20 or 50 times MORE exciting than she’d ever envisioned, though there’s a phenomenal amount of vibration in those things (which I already knew), but the chopper pilot was VERY impressed with what he’d seen iQuad doing, and said iQuad was real “class” and they should keep it up, and yes – she got it all photographed of course, if only it all came out okay…  Yeah – like THAT!  I can only imagine what Willow was like in that helicopter, and how she must have “gushed” at the pilot, too!

Finally, back with iQuad again, a quick glance at the video-camera said that the video “would need some work” and perhaps they aught to look seriously at some good image stabilization software to counteract the vibration, if they were going to be doing much of this overhead video stuff…  Well, I’d done my part anyway, and everyone was now really interested in those images rolling off the camera.  So, I wandered back to my van and my now cold espresso, and sat and thought for a bit.

I couldn’t much think of anything else I had, or wanted, to do at this event. The weather didn’t look like it was going to clear off and steady up, so that wasn’t any attraction.  I’d already shot about 400-500 photos the day before, so I was confident I had plenty to pick from for a decent article. There wasn’t anyone or anything that required my presence any longer.  Indeed, Amy Doran and Panda had already hit the road for Bend’ Oregon, and I suspected, given the weather, that iQuad wasn’t far behind. It was time to call it and “event” and put the kite van on the road. So I wandered off to say goodbye to all and sundry, grabbed the flat of Tulip pots and stowed them carefully in the van, and snuck out the back way one more time.  So long, Tulip Town!  It was fun, but I’m cold and wet and hungry for a good meal – which I knew I could find 40 miles down the road in Seattle.

For those who’re interested:

  1. The website for Tulip Town is
  2. The website for Team iQuad is:
  3. The website for Four Winds Kites is:

Unfortunately, I haven’t good information on the nice folks from Bremerton, WA and their lovely Enstrom helicopter.  I’d welcome any help anyone can give so that we can include their website information here.

Anyway, I did put the van on the road and DID share a delightful meal and some fine conversation with friends in Seattle.  And I met my daughter the following morning for breakfast before I headed south to Vancouver, WA again.  Home to “Mother Theresa” to share – and plant – six pots of Tulips!

See you all at Tulip Town again next year, or at least I’ll see on down the road at some kite fest or other!   Fly SAFE, now!

Fair Wind and Good Friends,