By Theresa Goffredo Herald Writer
The Skagit Valley beckons these days with huge swaths of yellow and white daffodils.
And the tulips are not far behind.
The Skagit Valley Tulip Festival officially opens Monday, April Fool’s Day, and this is no joke: There should be a haze of color this first week of April.
Tulips in all their Crayola colors are expected to pop right on time this year because of a mild winter. In fact, there could be some big fields in bloom the first weekend of April, said Cindy Verge, the festival’s executive director.
“Tulip blooming is right where it usually is, but in the past three years, it’s been very unusual because it’s been very late in the season for our tulips,” Verge said. “Now we are swinging back to where we normally are.”
Once a field begins to bloom the tulips there will last about two weeks. Fields are planted with different varieties so they bloom at different times.
This spectacle of color can last most of April as fields and fields of tulips bloom in a 15-mile triangle bordered by Highway 20, the Skagit River and the Swinomish Channel.
People come to view the floral magnificence and to take in a variety of events and activities scheduled throughout the month.
The Skagit Valley Tulip Festival is in its 30th year and to help celebrate, festival organizers are running a special event called “30 Days of April,” handing out prizes each day for 30 days beginning April 1.
Each day of the festival an item will be featured that a lucky visitor may win. In some cases, potential winners will need to go to the Tulip Festival office at 311 W. Kincaid St. in downtown Mount Vernon to try their luck; in other cases, they’ll visit a festival sponsor to enter to win a prize. Prizes include massages, chocolates or a free night’s hotel stay.
Another prize-winning opportunity is the photo contest, where budding photographers can win prize packages and have their photos published in the 2014 festival brochure.
The photo contest is running on the festival Facebook page. To learn more details go to www.facebook.com/SkagitValleyTulipFestival.
A new feature added to the festival this year is that GPS coordinates for all the tulip fields — and for the festival office and for the festival’s two major tulip gardens — will be posted under the field map tab on the festival’s website.
Every year, thousands of visitors from all over the world visit the festival and often ask for an address for a particular tulip field. The fields, however, have no address.
Festival organizers hope that by providing GPS coordinates, people can more easily track down the fields they want to visit, Verge said.
Another helpful tool that was added this year are live traffic updates and alerts tweeted by the Skagit County Sheriff’s Office. The Twitter account is @svtulipfest.
Because of the volume of visitors, especially on those sunny weekends, festival organizers are trying to find ways to alleviate traffic jams. They hope that Twitter alerts will encourage visitors to avoid the most congested fields.
The festival is set up as a driving tour as fields and events are often miles apart.
“It’s the sheer volume, and I wish I could change that, but it’s also very exciting for me because they are all here to see the flowers,” Verge said. “Every improvement we make gets some more information out there, and we all keep working at it to make it better each time.”
Your best bet for seeing tulips any time in April is to visit the area’s two biggest tulip gardens: RoozenGaarde and Tulip Town.
At RoozenGaarde, 15867 Beaver Marsh Road, Mount Vernon, more than 150 different flower varieties are planted, adding up to more than 1,000 acres of tulip, daffodil and iris fields.
RoozenGaarde is open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day throughout the month. Admission is $5 per person and $4 for those with military ID. Children 10 and younger are admitted free. Parking is also free.
Tulip Town, 15002 Bradshaw Road, Mount Vernon, has the only indoor flower and garden show. Admission to Tulip Town is $5; $4 for those with military ID; and children 10 and younger get in free.
Pick up the Blue Trolley here and tour the fields from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. seven days a week. Adult tickets are $2; children, $1.
The festival’s various events and activities will kick off on schedule Monday. Here are some of the highlights:
2013 Tulip Festival Poster Artist Karen Sistek: Sistek is autographing posters April 6, 14, 20 and 28 at RoozenGaarde, and April 7, 13, 21 and 27 at Tulip Town.
Sistek, a self-taught artist who has been silk painting for 16 years, uses dyes especially designed for painting on silk.
Veterans Memorial Dedication: 10 a.m. April 12, Tulip Town,15002 Bradshaw Road, Mount Vernon. This memorial has been constructed in the show garden to honor service men and women.
The ceremony will include speakers from the Veterans of Foreign Wars and entertainment.
Anacortes Spring Wine Festival: noon to 4:30 p.m. April 13, Port of Anacortes Transportation Shed Event Center, First and Commercial streets, Anacortes.
This event blends 30 regional vintners and six restaurants offering appetizers and live music. Tickets start at $40. For more information call 360-293-7911.
28th Annual Not So Impromptu Kiwanis Tulip Parade: noon, April 13. This parade is well-known for its impromptu and wacky nature. Last-minute entries are accepted and no entry is too small: Farm animals, mascots or favorite pets are all welcome.
Spectators should bring lawn chairs and line up along First Street in La Conner. Entry forms are available at www.tulipfetival.org.
Downtown Mount Vernon Street Fair: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. April 19 and 20, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. April 21. Arts and crafts vendors from more than eight states assemble hundreds of juried items, along with live entertainment, children’s activities and plenty of food choices.
Kiwanis Salmon Barbecue: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily April 6 to April 28, Hillcrest Lodge, 1717 S. 13th St., Mount Vernon. Guests will enjoy alder grilled salmon with baked potato, coleslaw, garlic bread, beverages and ice cream.
It’s $12 for a regular plate and $10 for a medium plate. For more information go to www.kiwanismv.net.
World’s Largest Garage Sale: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. April 12 and 13, Skagit County Fairgrounds, 1410 Virginia St., Mount Vernon. There are more than 120 vendors participating in this huge event that offers antiques, crafts, jewelry and other items.
This year also features Lang’s Traveling Pony Rides. For more information call 360-336-9414 or go to www.skagitcounty.net/fairgrounds.
For complete information about the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival including bloom times and event listings, go to www.tulipfestival.org.