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- Skagit County in Washington State -

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THE LOWER SKAGIT RIVER VALLEY, with the town of Mount Vernon at its centre, is one of the most fertile areas in the north west of America and is a significant producer of peas for the USA market. More well known is the growing of tulips, hyacinths, iris and daffodils. The area of land in the valley under tulip cultivation is now said to be greater than that in the whole of Holland. Bulb cultivation in the Skagit Valley started in 1906 with a Mrs. Mary Brown Stewart growing some bulbs which she had obtained from Holland. With the help of Dr. David Griffiths of the USDA experimental station in Washington, who also provided her with a further selection of bulbs, Mrs. Stewart soon established a mail-order business, selling bulbs to garden clubs across America. The industry in the Skagit Valley was further developed by Dutch growers migrating to America and establishing bulb farms in the area. This was their response to the restrictions placed on bulb imports by the USA government in 1926. The restrictions, however, were lifted after WW II which meant increased competition for the U.S. growers from overseas bulb growing centers such as Holland, England and more recently, Japan. Although the competition put many of the smaller farms in Skagit Valley out of business the local industry not only survived but is now a thriving entity.

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Although the tulip bloom is a major tourist attraction in the Skagit Valley, the tulip industry is concerned primarily with the bulbs themselves. The bulbs are machine-graded and the large bulbs are marketed. The bulbs to be planted usually come from the farm's previous harvests. However, some stock is occasionally purchased from Europe.
Bulbs are planted in the Autumn (September and October) after which they are fertilized and chemically treated for disease control. (Petals falling from spent blooms are a potential disease hazard so the blooms are sheared off by a mechanical topper just before they pass their peak.)
The flowers are picked beginning in late March. The exact time of the harvest varies due to weather conditions. Bulbs remain in the ground until the summer when digging up and cleaning begins. Generally speaking, flowers are cut by hand and the bulbs later removed from the ground, sorted and cleaned by machinery.

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(Acknowledgement to Audrey Smith, the Executive Director of the festival.)
'The Skagit Valley Tulip Festival is a community event that actively involves every major city in Skagit County. Officially inaugurated in 1984 by the Mount Vernon Chamber of Commerce, the Tulip festival has grown into one of Washington State's most popular and colorful happenings. The Mount Vernon Chamber of Commerce ....saw that people were coming by the thousands to view the colors that resembled an explosion in a paint factory and decided to add enhance the visitors' trip to the Skagit Valley.
'In 1994 the Tulip Festival broke off from the Chamber of Commerce and became an entity of its own, headed by a 20-member board of directors.The Skagit Valley Tulip Festival now boasts an amazing assortment of events (that) include everything from walks to runs to bike rides. There are several art shows along with gala celebrations and concerts by the Skagit Symphony. The...Mount Vernon Street Fair has juried arts and crafts, entertainment and a variety of festival foods. The Kiwanis Salmon Barbecue is a complete salmon dinner held at beautiful Hillcrest Park and hosted by the local Kiwanis club.
'The 2002 Tulip Festival (featured) a new event - the Washington Mutual Country Fair. Set along the Skagit River at Edgewater Park in Mount Vernon, the fair (provided) entertainment, great food, country-themed arts and crafts and a commercial demonstration area. In addition, fair goers (were) able to learn about the agriculture that sets the character of our valley.'

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