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Madison County Organic Tulip Festival Set to Start, Despite Snow - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

Madison County Organic Tulip Festival Set to Start, Despite Snow

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A one-of-a-kind springtime celebration is set to kick off in Madison County this weekend, despite the winter weather.  The only Organic Tulip Festival in the country is coming back for its fourth year - with plans to be bigger and better than ever.

Flowers are a sign of spring, but this year's Organic Tulip Festival in Madison County has a slightly different setting.

EcoTulips Co-founder Keriann Koeman said, "Even if you can't see them, they're under there and getting a nice nitrogen-rich snow cover on them right now."

Koeman started EcoTulips with her husband, Jeroen.  They moved the event several miles away – from the old location in Brightwood to an old horse farm in Aroda.

"We had to find a place that has more parking and we really wanted to increase what we offer - not just tulips but have more of an educational component," said Koeman. 

She says they now have more room for demonstrations on topics including organic gardening and permaculture. Speakers will also talk to visitors at the festival about topics such as natural beekeeping and how to create a pollinator garden.

The new, larger location belongs to the family behind Mad Arts. They've been rooted in the Organic Tulip Festival as a vendor for past three years.

Summer Davis with Mad Arts said, "Both of our organizations are for the same kind of thing, boosting the community and the art and natural parts."

There are twice the tulips in the festival's show garden this year, with bursts of color and contrast budding under the snow-covered canvas.

"Last year, we think it was only 10,000 tulips in the show garden and now, there are 20,000."  Koeman said.  "So we were able to be more creative. We have tulips in the shape of tulips."

There are many different flowers blooming under the blanket of snow, with white French Single Late tulips lining the perimeter of the garden.  Koeman says they can get up to 30 inches tall, but it all depends on how the weather plays out in the coming weeks.

"We've just had to kind of just be flexible. We're used to Virginia weather at this point. Last year, it was two weeks early and this year, I think our tulip festival will be later than it ever has been," she said.

The festival is slated to run for four weeks this year.  Koeman says around 3,000-4,000 people stopped by the three-week event last year to participate in activities like the Easter egg hunt and check out what makes the festival unique – their organic roots.

"We do not grow our own tulip bulbs so we import them from Holland, so there's about just a handful of organic growers in Holland and what it requires more manual weed control.  It requires that you don't use synthetic pesticides," she said.

Koeman says visitors are starting to recognize the importance of sustainable farming practices.  "We wanted to do something that we knew was good for the environment, wasn't going to contaminate our waterways, wasn't going to contribute to pollinators being harmed like honeybee hive collapse," she said.

Though it feels and looks a whole lot like winter, Koeman assures spring has sprung below the surface.

"I think after a winter, especially after this, when you have that first burst of blooming color, which is what those early spring bloomers bring, it just makes people really happy," she said.

The tulip festival will open this Saturday.  Koeman says her husband forced about 1,000 tulips in the greenhouse, which they will be handing out for free to everyone that comes out.

Click here for the 2013 Organic Tulip Festival's full schedule of events.

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