At 1pm on a sunny Sunday in mid-April all three northbound lanes of Interstate 5 are backed up a full ten miles south of exit 226 outside Mount Vernon, Washington. Thousands of cars are trying to make their way onto Kincaid Street and out west into the rich fields of Skagit Valley to see the tulips in bloom. Thankfully – very thankfully – we are heading south on the freeway past the backup, having arrived much earlier in the morning to roam the rows of flowers. Every April for over thirty years now the Skagit Tulip Festival has attracted visitors from around the world.
Most of the flowering fields are owned by RoozenGaarde, the largest bulb grower on the continent, and estimates put attendance during the four official weeks of the festival at around a million people. Judging by the crowds that turned out on this particular day, it’s a believable number. Despite the massive turnout and the inevitable few who ended up walking deep into rows of flowers, onto adjoining private property where they shouldn’t be, or repeatedly trampling over the corpse of at least one dead bird, it was a beautiful day day to be out among millions of tulips blooming in a dazzling array of colors and nothing could take away from our enjoyment of the springtime splendor.
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