"The Tulip Tour"
The cars drive by my usually quiet country home, in endless procession. The chartered busses, with their multiple eyes gaze at me as if I were on display for their benefit alone. I try to cross the road for my daily mail pickup. The carrier is late, the traffic has delayed her. The annual Skagit Valley Tulip Tour has begun. It will last for four weeks this year.
My home is in the northern part of the Puget Sound area of Washington State, about sixty miles north of Seattle. It is an agricultural area with fertile soil and there are vegetable, seed, grain and flower crops raised here. I consider every season in our mild climate to have its own individual charms, but spring is especially magical.
The first of April has arrived and for the next four weeks, the Skagit Valley will be in the grip of tulip mania. We structure our lives accordingly. We schedule our doctor appointments, or other unavoidable trips to town, for early or late hours and if we must travel during the heart of the day, we allow time, plenty of time for the trip. It has taken me a full hour to make the four mile distance from my driveway to the edge of town, when I have been foolish enough to venture forth, during the heaviest volume of tulip traffic.
My huge yard has been mowed twice, and I have been weeding the flower beds, but with a late spring and the many rainy days, I am not as prepared as usual for this torrent of visitors. Dressed in my less than flattering garden clothes, I try to find an unobtrusive spot in my gardens that needs my attention. It is useless. I look up from my task, to find someone has sought me out to ask me one of the endless questions, about the fields, about the garden centers, about my own place in the scheme of things. Perhap she or she wants to set up an easel in my backyard to paint the beautiful sight, or a professional photographer asks if he might use my yard to set up his camera.
Pleased that my home is in the center of this beauty I retire to my living room to watch the parade from there. There will be no boredom in our valley for the next four weeks, only frustrated farmers trying to maneuver their massive, slow moving machinery down the road and through the traffic.
The daffodils have been filling the fields for weeks, with their many shades of white and gold. It is now the tulip’s turn to shine, and they out do the daffodils with their rainbow of colors.
From my front window I can see a field of solid, glorious pink. The back fields are strips of red, purple, white and many of the shades between. Cars are stopped along the fields and the occupants are taking pictures and oohing and aahing over this scene. In their eagerness they have ignored the signs asking them to stay out of the fields. Roads have been made at intervals for the convenience of workers and the sightseers may use these if they once to get closer to the beauty.
I happened to be tuned to a Seattle radio station one day, when a man who was talking about a near death experience of his, was asked, “Will you describe Heaven for us? What did it look like?”
He had a bit of trouble finding the right words for this incredible happening. “ Oh, it was wonderful, there were flowers everywhere. You know, it looked like the Skagit Valley.”
I was delighted. He must have been here during our wonderful tulip time.
The annual tour was the brainchild of not the farmers who are busy and would rather be left alone to tend their crops, but by the merchants. It brings in a lot of tourist dollars and they have many exciting events planned during the weeks of the tour. I see by the latest brochure that the name has been changed to Skagit Valley Tulip Festival and all of the towns in the area are competing to be the one with the most attractions. There is a salmon barbecue by the Kiwanis each weekend. There are Art Shows, Pottery Shows, Quilt Shows, and street fairs among others. There are several display gardens, featuring the lovely tulip and the residents of the area are showing off the bright tulips in their yards.
Bicycle tours have been planned. Walking tours, bus tours, and automobiles, take your pick, the world is coming to my doorstep, by one means or another.
What is it about this transitory scene that draws viewers from all over this country and many others? They know this is not a permanent wonder. Even before the four weeks of glory are over, farmers will send workers out to top these beauties. The flowers that show their color and draw the visitors, are too mature to pick. Blossoms in bud have been harvested to sell in roadside stands to the visitors or bundled and shipped to far-flung markets.
The bulb is the true crop that will be harvested. If the petals are allowed to fall on to the stalk of the plant, they can cause disease. The farmer cannot wait, he must remove the petals, even though there are late visitors to our show, who will be disappointed. But as sure as spring, the glorious spectacle will be back on time, next April, same time, same place.
© By: Joyce Johnson
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