Only Mother Nature knows when the tulip fields in Skagit Valley will bloom. Farmers can guess, the Tulip Festival staff can guess. But the weather dictates it all.
In 2016, the bulb flowers peaked early, owing in part to a warm winter. This spring, the tulips are just a bit late. According to the National Weather Service, we’ve had no completely sunny days since October, and our cool, wet winter is one of the reasons for the slight delay.
Nevertheless, if you make a trip to Skagit County in April, you are bound to see some colorful flower fields — or at least some lovely blossoms in the display gardens. The gardens are Washington Bulb Co.’s RoozenGaarde (www.tulips.com), 15867 Beaver Marsh Road, and Skagit Valley Bulb Farm’s Tulip Town (tuliptown.com), 15002 Bradshaw Road. Pick up a field map at these locations or download one at www.tulipfestival.org/map/print.
This past week, the daffodil fields were still bright and beautiful. Against the gray skies we’ve had, those yellow daffodils looked pretty great. Now they will begin to fade.
Hang on. Right behind them are the tulips. By today, some of the tulip fields are expected to show “a haze of color,” predicted David Johnson in the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival office. “Or maybe that hint of color will turn into a full bloom.”
The 34th annual Tulip Festival had its official start on Saturday. Continuing until 3 p.m. today is the Wood Fest in Sedro-Woolley. Then, April 8 marks the Not-So-Impromptu Tulip Parade in La Conner and the annual PACCAR tech center open house at 12479 Farm-to-Market Road.
Check out more activities at www.tulipfestival.org, but consider attending April 21-23, when Mount Vernon hosts its annual Downtown Street Fair, Burlington offers the Skagit Valley Genealogical Society’s celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday and the Anacortes Arts Festival puts on its spring show at the Anacortes Depot.
Speaking of art, the Tulip Festival is all about people who celebrate the flowers in photos, paintings and more. Dotti Burton from Camano Island is among the artists exhibiting paintings in the Art in the Schoolhouse Show at Christianson’s Nursery, 15806 Best Road. Other Camano and Snohomish County artists regularly participate in the Rexville Grange Art Show, which runs through April 9 at 19299 Rexville Grange Road. Visit the Tulip Festival website for the locations of other art shows.
The traffic during the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival can be tough, but it’s not half as bad now as it was in the 1980s when vehicles were bumper-to-bumper on the valley’s country roads.
Advice for tulip tourists from the locals and the folks at the festival office: Weekdays are better than weekends, if you can swing it. Arrive early or stay late. Morning and evening light is better for photos and fewer people are out and about. This plan allows you to enjoy high noon, eating grilled salmon at the Kiwanis barbecue at Hillcrest Lodge, 1717 S. 13th St., in Mount Vernon, instead of fighting traffic.
Also, for your safety and for the peace of mind of people who live in the valley: Be polite and park in designated areas instead of in residential driveways or on the shoulder of the road, where you could be ticketed or get hit. And please, don’t let your child ride a bike in 50 mph speed zones.
Now go out and have a great time taking selfies in front of those amazing tulip fields.
Everett Herald reporter Gale Fiege has lived on the road from Conway to La Conner for 30 years and has seen it all. She has mellowed about the festival over the years, but still doesn’t go out much in April. And, no, she did not attend the Nuke the Tulips Neighborhood Social this year.