MOUNT VERNON — April showers delayed the flower power.
Tulips need sun to let it all hang out.
The tulip fields finally started popping with splashes of color last week at the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival, in time for its 40th year. It started April 1 and goes all month.
The festival is an annual tradition for many families, who pile in the car and travel miles for the mesmerizing experience and the stunning photos.
Already a number of people came over the rainy previous weeks when daffodils outnumbered tulips. A pretty sight, inspiring awe in its own right.
Many wait until the tulip blooms cover the ground like an infinite rainbow.
Brace for traffic congestion, when cars dot I-5 as thick as tulips, as do roads around the county.
About 350,000 to 400,000 people come each year, including a number from Canada who were unable to cross during COVID-19 peak years.
This is the festival’s first banner year since 2020, when the pandemic intervened.
“We are delighted that we’re back,” festival director Cindy Verge said. “We’re able to welcome our friends back from Canada. We have our major activities back. Many couldn’t run for three years. And we’ve added a fourth garden.”
Tulip Valley Farms joins recent newcomer Garden Rosalyn and oldtimers Tulip Town and RoozenGaarde, the largest.
Verge said studies estimate the festival pumps about $65 million into the local economy.
“People eat in our restaurants and stay in our hotels, pay the admission to the gardens and find the little shops,” she said.
A common question: “Where is the festival?”
“The answer is that it’s all over. There isn’t a specific address,” Verge said.
The festival’s map pinpoints 30 stops in the county. Shops, restaurants, galleries and other venues participate. Some of the fields, events and attractions are miles apart.
A street fair in downtown Mount Vernon is April 21 to 23. New this year is the three-day pickleball tournament at Skagit Valley College that has 600 entrants.
Farms offer workshops on the proper way to cut tulips and gardening tips. Some have behind-the-scenes tours.
Peak weekend visiting hours are from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekends. Weekday visits typically have minimal traffic other than the usual I-5 clogs.
The pandemic affected the festival in 2020 and 2021. Weather was to blame for last year’s lackluster crop.
“In 2022, we had significant flooding and lost about 80 percent of our field,” Tulip Town co-owner Kristen Keltz said.
She and her husband, along with venture group partners, bought Tulip Town in 2019.
They were at the Tulip gala and happened to be seated at a table by the longtime owners, Tom and Jeannette DeGoede, who were looking for a buyer for their farm.
“They wanted to see it continue,” Keltz said.
Tulips fit with the mission of venture group members to be involved and invested in their community. So they bought the farm.
Their first year of operation clashed with COVID-19.
“In 2020, we ended up taking bouquets to fire stations and hospitals,” she said. “We were able to open in 2021 with limited capacity.”
The farm has over 5 acres of flowers, display gardens, a giant mural and trolley rides through the fields. Visitors can fly kites, play cornhole and pop the question.
Tulip Town offers private engagement packages. For those not there yet or already hitched, date night packages are available.
Admissions and features vary by farm. Some allow dogs. Drones aren’t allowed.
RoozenGaarde, with over 50 acres of tulips and daffodils, has windmills and a production complex, Washington Bulb Company.
Advance ticket purchase online can save time as well as money to spend on bulbs and eats.
If it’s raining?
Bring an umbrella. Wear boots. Or tiptoe through the mud, but not the tulips.
Andrea Brown: 425-339-3443; email@example.com; Twitter: @reporterbrown.
For information and online interactive map: tulipfestival.org.
The Downtown Mount Vernon Street Fair is 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. April 21 and 22, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. April 23.
The Tulip Tussle Pickleball Tournament is April 28-30 at Skagit Valley College, Mount Vernon.
Use alternate I-5 exits. Many travelers take exit 226 onto Highway 536 aka Kincaid Street into downtown Mount Vernon, which connects to shops and restaurants, but traffic can quickly back up onto I-5. Construction could add congestion this year.
To avoid the fray, use exit 221. Head west toward Conway and La Conner to enter the flower fields from the south.
Or take exit 230 to head west on Highway 20 to Highway 536 or take a left on various Skagit County roads.
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