Inside advice on enjoying the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDMarch 27, 2014 

Skagit Valley Tulip Festival

Now in its 31st year, the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival is a communitywide celebration of the annual tulip bloom. Events and activities are spread throughout the area through April.

PHILIP A. DWYER — THE BELLINGHAM HERALD Buy Photo

I asked Cindy Verge, executive director of the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival, for some tips about all of the events taking place in April.

Of course, the first thing visitors want to know is, "Are the flowers blooming?"

Here's what she said.

"Right now daffodils are beginning to bloom. By the end of March there will likely be a hint of color in some of the tulip fields and the first week of the festival the fields (the 350 acres of tulips grown by Washington Bulb Co.) will start to bloom.

"Sometime during the second week in April the fields will come into full bloom. The garden flowers at RoozenGaarde will be very pretty by the start of the festival, as they plant over 1/4 million spring-blooming bulbs (daffodils, hyacinths, tulips, snowdrops) in the garden.

"Tulip Town plants over 1 million tulip bulbs of 50-plus varieties that bloom early, mid- and late-season, so there are tulips to see throughout the growing season. Tulip Town has been busy in the off-season; they have recreated a Dutch street, complete with street lamps, in their indoor flower show."

I asked Cindy for five "don't miss" highlights or events this year. Her responses:

- The street fair April 25-27 in downtown Mount Vernon features artisans from throughout the country in its juried arts and crafts fair.

- The US Bank Tulip Parade on April 12, a true hometown parade with floats, kids on bicycles decorated with balloons, a barrel train, and, of course, Shrine entries and horses.

- PACCAR's open house, also April 12, the only day during the year that the facility opens its doors so people can see how they test and develop their semi trucks.

- The Kiwanis salmon barbecue, with a delicious, wild salmon meal for just $12

- Number five is tough, as there are so many to choose from; an art show, wine tasting, woodworking at Woodfest, the Tulip Pedal bike ride and the Tulip Run are all contenders!

Cindy added that festival organizers try to highlight the valley's agricultural valley because they "recognize that we need to nurture and preserve the industry. People will find farms that raise apples, oysters, milk cows and make cheese, raise and showcase alpacas, grow grapes and produce wine, all welcoming visitors during the festival," she said.

I know the best time to go is during the week, so I asked her about out-of-the-way locations or events our readers should know about. Her answer:

"For the first time this year there is a Volkswalk event that takes people through a Skagit River walk and old downtown Burlington. People might also check out the Glass Aquarium on the westside of Mount Vernon; artisans will be in residence creating beautiful blown-glass pieces.

"Quilters will be out in force April 11-13 at the Swinomish Casino and Lodge for the biannual Fidalgo Island Quilters Quilt Show. These are truly works of art that have been created and are on display.

"There is truly something for everybody; people should check out the events section on tulipfestival.org. While on the site, fans can download the entire brochure or sign up to have one mailed to them.

And just to clarify how knowledgeable she is about the festival, she said she started working with the festival in 1999 as its sponsorship coordinator and was named executive director in 2003. She lives in Mount Vernon.

REMEMBERING LAYNE SOUTHCOTT

I would be remiss if I didn't include a tribute to my friend Layne Southcott, who died of a massive heart attack on March 12.

Layne was most everybody's "buddy," and that's what he called himself - "Your buddy Layne" - whether on the radio at KUGS, performing his unique band of slam poetry, or blowing his harmonica and singing at open mics.

Bellingham-born and -bred, Layne was a big guy with a big voice who had big visions for his community. His most recent endeavor was to take part in the redevelopment of Bellingham's waterfront. His sincere wish was to make our town a good place for our kids (he had two sons himself).

Here's what he said about his dad, Bellingham artist Marvin Southcott, who died in February 2013.

"Marvin A. Southcott is now free to cruise the cosmos as he will. His physical body was left behind and his spirit is dancing among the energy fields."

The same can be said about Layne.

There's more about Layne on Facebook.

We'll miss you, friend.

Reach Margaret Bikman at 360-715-2273 or margaret.bikman@bellinghamherald.com.

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