Monday, April 23, 2007

Tulip farm wraps up festival

WOODBURN, Ore. — It was easy to spot Barb Iverson, of Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm, at the end of the annual tulip festival yesterday.

Tired, but happy, she was near the gift shop and food concession stands, giving some last directions to people who were cleaning up as the day's visitors left.

This year was a good one, she said. While rain had been frequent, there were at least two or three nice weekend days during the festival — and that made all the difference, making it the most successful one they have had in more than three years.

Also, this year the stars aligned, she explained: several sponsors came on board, helping take financial pressure off the family to hold the event. They could concentrate on other things, such as assist events taking place, and arrange bulb orders of customers.

The Iverson family hosted thousands of visitors this year from March 20 to April 22. The farm has 40 acres of tulips and daffodils, as well as a gift shop (that remains open until mid-May), wine tasting, pony rides, a farm equipment display, and children’s activities including a climbing wall. During the festival, various vendors bring food, music and crafts to keep the crowds busy and entertained.

The main draw were the fields themselves, a patchwork of bright colors. People traveled from Portland, Salem and other cities to wander the rows of tulips. For many it was a family event, people bringing their kids and dogs, or asking people to take pictures of them and their spouses surrounded by flowers. It was a chance for strangers to meet and show kindness to each other, even if it was for a few minutes of helping out with a picture.

One woman was having problems getting her daughter to pose, as the young girl kept dashing ahead row by row and grasping a different colored flower each time.

“I’m busy, mom,” she explained, as she bent over and buried her nose into the tulip. “I’m smelling the flowers!”

Occasionally a teenager, trailing parents, would grumble about the experience being boring. Immediately one of the parents would begin to growl that this was quality family bonding time and the teenager better appreciate that and be patient.

One parent, attending the fields on April 15, overheard another parent say that, and she smiled and cried out “Alleluia!” She then explained that she had been telling her own son that same point only moments before.

As for her teenaged son, his day didn’t get better, as he accidentally stumbled into a huge mud puddle and soaked his shoe. His mother showed little sympathy as she eagerly sought more flowers to photograph.

Perhaps one of the greatest things about events such as tulip festivals is how it draws so many cultures, as well as rich and poor, to participate. Throughout the fields, there were many different languages being spoken as well as many styles of clothing. If you ever wanted to learn to say cheese in another language before snapping a photo, this was the place. This was a place where in one day you could see people from Europe, Mexico, India, Russia or Asia. And there were even some Tibetan monks wandering round.

This is a real family event, and many families came out with several generations represented. They did family photos, sometimes with large groups of people, sometimes with only a child or two hidden among the tulips. For the adults, it created a pleasant memory; for the children, it was magical.

For Barb Iverson, while she admits this time of year is exhausted, it also is one of her favorite. She gets to spend every day in the fields, enjoying the flowers. A lover of photography, she carries her digital camera around and takes pictures — a lot of them. “I love digital,” she laughed.

Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm

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