The two-year old in a pink mud-splashed coat cannot resist the puddles, and for a moment I am distracted by her antics and turn my camera to capture her fun. Her mother seems not to notice, she is more focused on the field of tulips that have drawn thousands of visitors to this farm in the Skagit Valley of Washington. Chartered buses and vehicles choke the parking lot of Tulip Town during the Tulip Festival in mid-April. Flower buffs, photographers and tourists come to be awed by the rows of brilliant colour in the rural setting.
Washington weather can be unpredictable in springtime, so it is not unusual to see people clad in raincoats and rubber boots in expectation of showers, but today the clouds relent and the sun attempts to dry the muddy paths for the benefit of the tourists. It is a carnival-like atmosphere. A large mural inside the visitors’ area depicts the historical significance of the Netherlands in the origins of the famed flower. Tulips from Holland that were planted in the Skagit in the early 1900’s favored the wet climate and by 1926 the first Tulip bulb farm was established, followed by many others. So although it is the colorful blooms that bring the tourists, it is actually the bulbs that are the harvest.
Each year a special painting is featured as the poster for the festival. This year the artist John Ebner is here to sign his works. In the foreground of his watercolor he has painted pots of flowers under an awning that points over the fields to the blue mountains beyond. I must have a fridge magnet of the poster so I join the crowds in the booth where other buyers are admiring more landscape paintings by Ebner.
Across the aisle a food stall offers home-cooking and next to that a vendor is doing a booming business in cut flowers and, of course, a gift shop further down is retailing a store-full of everything painted, stitched, or decorated with tulips! As interesting as the indoor displays are, most of the crowds are coaxed outside by the real star of the celebration, the tulip fields. Leaving the building, I stop to take pictures of the windmill and the carefully-tended gardens as well as the giant bird-shaped kites that are fighting their tethers to fly free. As vivid as they are, the nylon creations cannot compete with the brilliant flowers in the fields beyond.
Scarlet, rose, coral, lemon and deep purple flowers rival one another for attention. The result is a photographer’s delight. People pose among the blooms, and in good-nature offer to snap a stranger’s photograph for them. This is a family outing, a group excursion, or a hobbyist’s day to enjoy. Trolly rides take people around the fields, but most people prefer the walk, despite the puddles they have to avoid, or in the case of children, splash through with vigor. Parents do not seem to mind their children’s antics. The day has that effect of harmony and high spirits. A trip to the Skagit Valley in tulip time is just the answer for brightening a person’s day.
Diane Zorn is a freelance writer lucky enough to live in the vacation land of Osoyoos, BC, Canada, where she has worked as a reporter/ photographer for the local newspaper. Early in 2011 she registered with College of the Rockies to fine-tune her skills through a travel writing course. She plans to spend her retirement traveling to wonderful destinations and writing of her adventures. Her favorite travel places are Thailand and Argentina, but she has journeyed extensively throughout North America.