Tulip Time!

April 1, 2005
Filed under Destinations

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Why go to Holland to see broad fields of magnificent tulips when you can travel in the
comfort of your own RV to see them right here at home? Washington’s Skagit (pronounced
SKAJ-et) Valley is one of the world’s largest tulip-growing regions, and every year — when
the flowers bloom in April — a month-long Tulip Festival draws visitors from around the
world. By bus, boat, plane or private vehicle, more than 100,000 people flock to this quiet
little farming community to enjoy the lush spectacle of more than 1,000 acres of blossoming
tulips, daffodils and iris. In the 1940s and ’50s, the Roozen and DeGoede families from
Holland immigrated to the Skagit Valley, bringing with them their knowledge and passion for
growing flowering bulbs. Thus began a multimillion-dollar industry that ships these flower
bulbs around the globe. Actually, the blossoms are just a by-product of the bulb-growing
industry, but they provide a lucrative tourist attraction for the local community, and a
great deal of pleasure for the people who come to see them. The blossoms last about three
weeks and are cut off the stalks as soon as the blooms start to fade in order to keep the
bulbs healthy, so be sure to call the Tulip Festival number to get the latest information
on the peak dates for the blooms and plan your trip accordingly. Upon your arrival, you
will find a fantastic visual feast awaiting you. If you are like most visitors, you’ll come
with camera in hand expecting to capture that “perfect” photograph. Give yourself every
advantage by planning your photo sessions during the weekdays, when crowds are lighter.
Take advantage of soft early-morning light and use a tripod, as you may need to compose
your picture and then wait for the breeze to settle before snapping the shutter. Don’t be
afraid to get right down on the ground at the level of the flowers to take your pictures.
The fields are muddy, so wear old shoes or boots. A pair of light waterproof pants will
help keep you dry and comfortable while you’re sitting on the damp earth. Patches of fog
often linger in the mornings and float in ghostly wisps among the blossoms, creating
wonderful, soft watercolor scenes. Some of the best photographs we’ve seen were taken with
raindrops sparkling on the flower petals, so don’t let a little rain deter you. One visit
is never enough to the Tulip Festival. Every year, the flower fields are rotated with other
crops to keep the soil rich, so you will be greeted with a different landscape each time
you come. The rustic barns seem to shift locations with different backgrounds as the
patterns of the fields change. Quaint farmhouses sit beside the rows of flowers, and
dramatic views of Mount Baker and the Cascade Mountains provide a perfect backdrop for
photos. Many flower fields are located along Beaver Marsh Road, including the spectacular
display gardens at Roozengaarde Farms, where a vast array of tulips, narcissus and
daffodils grow in artful arrangements. Each variety is labeled with names such as Golden
Apeldoor, Apricot Beauty or Orange Emperor to help you make selections for the varieties
you wish to purchase. Throughout the gardens, people snap pictures or simply stand in awe
of the magnificent displays. A tall, white windmill, with arms that nearly sweep the
ground, turns gently in the wind. Nearby picnic tables offer a lovely spot for lunch.
Visitors are allowed to walk among the flowers in many fields. Some even have mule-drawn
wagons that take you out in style along with great commentary on the region. Like a
colorful patchwork quilt, acres and acres of brilliant blossoms spread out in every
direction. Dancing on slender stalks in the breeze, the tulips resemble lollipops swaying
to a music that only they can hear. An enticing perfume permeates the air, and the flowers
are exquisite. Pause and let yourself be engulfed by the deep feeling of peace that abides
here in this beautiful Pacific Northwest valley. The flower fields are located off
Interstate 5, about 60 miles north of Seattle, between the little towns of Mt. Vernon,
LaConner and Burlington. Your Trailer Life Campgrounds, RV Parks & Services Directory
lists a number of campgrounds in the area, and early reservations are a must. Plan on
leaving your large rig in the campground and using your secondary vehicle, bicycle or one
of the many public shuttles to view the flowers, as the narrow farm roads weren’t made for
heavy traffic, and parking is limited. The Tulip Festival is a community-wide event
involving all of the little towns in the Skagit Valley, and is a celebration of history,
music and art as well as flowers. A vast array of activities will keep you busy for as long
as you can stay. Mount Vernon celebrates with a street fair, salmon barbecues,
arts-and-craft shows, concerts and many other events. Sedro Wolley has the Woodfest,
celebrating its roots in logging. Anacortes, an old oil-refinery town, has art- and quilt
shows, as well as a ferryboat to the San Juan Islands. Don’t miss the charming seaside
village, La Conner, with its streets lined with art galleries and crafts shops. Good
seafood is plentiful here, so plan to eat your fill. If shopping is your thing, Burlington
is noted for its discount centers, and gamblers will enjoy Skagit Resort Casino. This
region is also known for its large number of eagles and trumpeter swans, so come prepared
with a pair of binoculars. The Tulip Festival is an event that you will truly enjoy; so
when April rolls around, fire up your truck and head for the tulip fields. We’ll see you
there.

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