Tulips are in bloom and the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival is here to celebrate. Throughout the month of April, visitors can enjoy the beauty of the tulips and attend a variety of events. This year, the festival will celebrate their 40th anniversary, and it expects around 350,000 to 400,000 visitors to tour the fields.
Within the United States and across the globe, people come to the Skagit Valley to experience the beauty of the tulip farms. By the end of the festival every year, visitors from all 50 states have come to celebrate. The festival has accounted for visitors from over 80 countries that have come to the festival throughout the years.
Cindy Verge has been involved with the festival since 1999 and took her current role as executive director in 2003. She has watched the festival grow and change every year.
“My favorite time of year is always April, when I get to talk to all the people that are coming here to the festival,” Verge said.
Verge said visiting during the week versus the weekend has its own advantages and disadvantages.
“If you can manage a weekday trip, you’ll find much fewer people. There aren’t lines or waiting in traffic, so you can visit the farms at your leisure,” she said. “The downside … is that a lot of our events happen on the weekend, so there’s a more robust set of things you get to do.”
Verge suggested spending a couple of days at the festival to have time to visit each farm without feeling rushed, but there is also worth in driving down for a day to spend a couple of hours at a farm and enjoy the tulips.
Aside from visiting the farms and buying tulips, visitors can experience art shows, farmer's markets, petting zoos and much more.
Some events, like the photo contest, occur throughout April, while other events, like the pickleball tournament, only happen once. Tulip Tussle is a four-day pickleball tournament which takes place the last weekend of April.
Nick Lavinder, a festival attendee, has been going to the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival since 2018 and is entering the photo contest this year.
“Every year, I like to go and take photos,” Lavinder said. “I bring a film camera and a digital camera and get a lot of cool shots.”
The photo contest has four categories: Beauty of the Tulips Close-up, Beauty of the Tulips in the Fields, Children and Families. Winners are posted on the festival’s website and Facebook.
Lavinder said he will sometimes go to the festival multiple times each year to look at the tulips and take pictures. His preferred farm is RoozenGaarde, where he spends a couple of hours walking around and taking photos.
Before he leaves, he likes to get fudge from Fidalgo Fudge. The store is located in Old Town Anacortes and they set up a stand at RoozenGaarde for visitors to buy fudge.
The sky was blue, children were playing in the mud and Lavinder was in awe of the tulips surrounding him.
“I’m always blown away by it, every single time, especially on a nice day like it is today,” Lavinder said. “It feels like I’m in a fairytale and I love all the colors.”
The festival’s newest farm, Tulip Valley Farms, holds Night Bloom on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 8 to 10 p.m. They use a combination of lights and lasers to illuminate the grounds so visitors can enjoy the festival after the sun goes down.
Visitors have the option to buy tulips or bulbs at the farms. Tulip Valley Farms allows you to pick the tulips from the fields, but only from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Once attendees come home with their fresh tulips, Amber Morrison, the owner of Bellingham Flower Farms, recommends cutting the stems and changing the water every few days.
“The cool thing about tulips is they continue to grow in water, so you can continue to cut them,” Morrison said. “You’ll notice they might hang out of the vase, so you can go ahead and cut them again then stick them back in the vase. It’s one of the only flowers that does that which is kind of unique.”
Morrison grew up as an avid gardener and wanted to move into commercial growing. She started Bellingham Flower Farm at the beginning of 2020 and grows a variety of flowers, including specialty tulips. Morrison mainly grows double-bloom tulips, and one of her favorites is Gudoshnik.
“If you want to cut the tulip to take into your home, make sure you leave at least two leaves on the bulb,” Morrison said. “Otherwise the bulb won’t grow a flower next year. Bulbs need to be able to store enough nutrients to make a bloom the next year. If you cut it all off, that won’t happen.”
Bulbs should be planted in the fall, with the expected bloom date being in April. Morrison harvests the tulips before they bloom and digs them up with the bulb still attached. The tulips are stored in a cooler, then the bulbs are cut off before she takes them to the Bellingham Farmers Market.
The Skagit Valley Tulip Festival was started in 1984 by the Mount Vernon Chamber of Commerce. It originally started as a weekend event, but due to the unexpected bloom time and popularity of the festival, it began to grow. It was extended to a 10-day long festival, then 17 days, and now the celebration lasts throughout April.
Tickets can be bought online or at the farms and prices vary; more information can be found on the Tulip Festival website.
Ciarra Shaffer (she/her) is a city life reporter for The Front. She is a junior majoring in the public relations track of the journalism department. In her free time, Ciarra enjoys being outside and going to concerts. You can reach her at email@example.com