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First American Tulip Day welcomes spring in San Francisco

On March 3, in partnership with iBulb and Anthos in the Netherlands, Sun Valley Floral Farms in Arcata, CA, brought 100,000 tulips to Union Square in downtown San Francisco to celebrate the inaugural American Tulip Day. Dutch bulb exporters spearheaded this effort in order to increase Americans’ familiarity with Dutch tulip bulbs and to encourage the sale of cut tulips grown in the United States.

The Netherlands produces billions of tulip bulbs in more than 3,000 varieties every year. And the largest percentage of these tulip bulbs — around a half a billion a year — are exported to America, according to iBulb.

AMERICAN-TULIP-DAY-1On March 3, a group of Dutch flower farmers, along with local Dutch flower fans and team members from Sun Valley Flower Farms, brought 100,000 tulips to Union Square in downtown San Francisco to celebrate the inaugural American Tulip Day.So at sunrise on the first Saturday in March, a group of Dutch flower farmers, along with local Dutch flower fans and team members from Sun Valley, gathered at Union Square to pull off an incredible effort. By 11 a.m., this team of about 25 people had placed 100,000 tulips into a perfectly designed pattern around the Dewey Monument.

Modeled on a similar tradition that happens annually in Amsterdam in the Netherlands — Tulpendag — the public was invited to pick tulips from the huge Union Square garden for free, as a way to welcome springtime.

At 1 p.m., Henk Westerhop, chairman at Anthos, officially opened the event. Visitors were handed a paper bag as they streamed into the tulip garden, and they were allowed to take as many tulips as they could fit into their bag. Soon waves of people were among the tulips, taking selfies, playing with their kids, and simply enjoying being surrounded by tulips.

It was extremely gratifying to see how much joy this experience brought nearly 5,000 people. Our small crew stayed among the tulips, helping people take photos and explaining care and handling for their new treasures.

People were literally in tears as they thanked us for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The makeup of the crowd was as diverse as you can imagine, yet every single person was laughing, smiling and sharing in an experience that they won’t soon forget.

One romantic soul even used American Tulip Day as the perfect time to propose to his girlfriend and, of course, she said yes.

After about three hours, the tulip garden was nearly picked clean. Our team reassembled to clean up the Square and return it to its original state. The crates were picked up and trucks brought back to be reloaded.

Once the Square was swept and the banners tucked away, hugs and handshakes were exchanged among new friends, and promises were made for next year. And 100,000 tulips were in vases across the Bay Area and beyond, bringing joy and happiness to all.

Sun Valley was honored to be a part of this amazing event. Seeing firsthand the joy that tulips brought to so many people was a reminder of how wonderful flowers are and how fortunate we are to work with flowers every day. We are excited to participate again next year.

Bill Prescott is the marketing communications specialist at the Sun Valley Group in Arcata, CA. He can be contacted at bprescott@tsvg.com.