Tribute to Tulip Town founder Tom DeGoede

May 08 2020

At the beginning of the festival, in 1984, there were four tulip growers involved in the festival: West Shore Acres, Lefeber Bulb, Tulip Town and RoozenGaarde/Washington Bulb Company. As things have morphed and changed over the years, we now have two tulip growers: Tulip Town and RoozenGaarde/Washington Bulb Company. We thought it was only fitting to share the speech Jeannette DeGoede was set to give at our April gala, honoring Tom and formally passing the torch to the new Tulip Town owners. Here it is:

Greetings to all my Skagit Valley Friends!

Tonight Tom’s tribute will be what he would have loved…a night to thank you for all the years of support and love given to us.
We are celebrating our 37th annual tulip festival. I see all the bouquets of tulips gracing our tables, thanks to the Roozens for the past 37 years. Plus, their flower donations for all the other events happening during the festival time. Most memorable for me were the tulips they donated to decorate the church and reception hall for Tom’s going away party (his funeral); thank you and I will be forever grateful to you.
Since our Tulip Festivals began, Tom and I were gifted with family support. My house was cleaned each weekend, meals made, and where help was needed on the farm, there were there. We are a strong, loving team, and tonight I thank you, my family, with all my heart.
Tom had two other ones he called children. In 2004, Cindy Verge brought Jennifer Bowman, the selected tulip poster artist for that year, to our farm. I asked her if she would be interested in painting a mural as a backdrop for my tulip bouquets. She was excited to start on the project. On the south side of the warehouse wall she painted scenes from the Skagit Valley. We then moved to the north side of the wall where Tom decided that Jennifer would paint images that would reflect his country, Holland.
Tom and Jennifer spend time sitting on the floor with actual Holland photos and created a beautiful scene together. It was heartwarming watching the and dedication it took to orchestrate the artwork. The mural was a 16-year project. Tom would come in the house smiling, calling Jennifer his other kid.
The second “other kid” was Matt Usyk, who fell in love with the Skagit Valley while visiting his sister. We hired him, and he was such an asset with his flower artistry. Matt and I made many tulip bouquets together. He created bird houses that were outstanding and sold them at the festival. Most of us have his one-of-a kind handcrafted birdhouses.
Tom and I loved the two “extra kids.” At this time I would like to recognize my family, and the two other kids. Maria and Mike Kerley, Amos DeGoede, Catherine Bambrick, Anthony DeGoede with grandchildren Chloe Brambrick and finance Christian Lively, Alicia Poster and Brandon Kerley and our two “other kids” Jennifer Bowman and Matt Uysk.
Our tulip is the worlds’ peace flower. Cindy verge and I traveled to Spalding England, Canberra Australia, Ottawa Canada and Istanbul Turkey in tribute to the countries that joined in this celebration. We enjoyed the different cultures and how they displayed their tulips. What a wonderful experience! Cindy was a joy to travel with, and a perfect host for the United States. Thank you, Cindy, for those priceless memories. We brought back many ideas for our festival. We hosted the world’s tulip summit in 2010 and that was our highlight event.
Last year Tom and I were on this stage and it was our request to find someone from the Skagit Valley to purchase our farm. We had prayed for 5 years for a miracle…and it happened. There was a group attending last year’s dinner called the Spinach Bus Venture Group. That night they decided to purchase our farm, and the dream came to a happy reality.
Tom was going to be their mentor, but God called him home. I was sure that they would back out of the contract, but they courageously decided to pursue the business. I’m so proud of this group! They have had many events, so beautifully executed!
It is my honor to introduce and recognize the new Tulip Town owners, Andres Miller, Rachael ward Sparwasser, Angela Speer, Donnie Keltz, and Randy Howard. They are an amazing group and will add new and exciting events to make the Skagit Valley proud.
My journey of 60 years as a tulip grower’s wife has come to an end. I treasure so many beautiful memories. My deepest gratitude to all of you for love and support your gave Tome and me through these past years.
It is my hope and prayer that our community will remain a strong agricultural Valley. May God be with you always.