One of the advantages of living where I do in the Northeast, is that it's not a long drive to New York State's Capital city of Albany. One of the many events that is held each Spring for the last 62 years is the spectacular AlbanyTulip Festival. The Albany area was settled by a diverse range of immigrant families, including a very large Dutch population. In the true spirit of those who immigrated to the United States, these early settlers brought with them their traditions, architecture, culinary influences and the botanical landscape of their homeland, which included a plethora of stunning varieties of Tulips, Daffodils and other flowering bulbs that the Dutch are so famous for.
In 1948, the Mayor of Albany (Erastus Corning) sent a request to Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands, asking that she designate a variety of tulip as Albany's "official flower". She gladly accepted and chose a relatively rare variety called "Orange Wonder". (see image below) The first Tulip Festival was held the following year on May 14th in honor of the designation, and has continued to be held in May each year. The Fest is kicked off on Friday with an old Dutch tradition of "street scrubbing" and continues through the weekend, rain or shine. The crowning of the Tulip Queen is held on Saturday and the lucky girl who wins this prestigious title, becomes the Mayor's ambassador for Literacy for the duration of her reign. In later years, other festivities were incorporated into Tulip Fest, including the Mother of the Year Award and Pinksterfest.
|Hanging out in Washington Park|
Since it's inception in 1949, The Tulip Festival has been held in Albany's historic Washington Park. The park is an (approx) 81 square mile public park containing a 5.2 acre lake, designed by well-known landscape architects John Bogart and John Cuyler in the 1860's and is often mistaken as a Frederick Law Olmstead design. (Olmstead designed New York City's Central Park) This mistake is understandable, considering Bogart worked for/with Olmstead on Manhattan's treasured landmark. The park has tennis, basketball and handball courts, bicycling, cross country skiing and ice skating on the lake in Winter. It is home to several monuments and memorials and hosts the annual Freihofer's Run For Women, which is one of the largest 5K races exclusively for women, in the world. It's scenic grounds are one of Albany's most popular places for festivals and social gatherings.
|Washington Park Lake House|
The festival is held each May, in recent years on Mother's Day weekend, and is filled with outdoor concerts, delicious food vendors, magic acts and carriage rides. There are over 200,000 tulip bulbs planted throughout the park, as well as flowering crab apple and cherry trees, so just walking around this lovely park on a beautiful Spring day is breathtaking! Click here for the 2011 schedule of events.
|Tulip, "Orange Wonder"|
If you're in the Albany area around Mother's Day and want to have a thoroughly enjoyable outdoor weekend, then Albany Tulip Fest is just the thing! I know that I can't wait til next weekend! Maybe I'll see you there!