As warmer days come upon us, fields filled with all colors of tulip are popping up on family farms in McHenry and DeKalb counties.
In her wildly popular 2018 TED Talk, “Where Joy Hides and How to Find It,” designer and author Ingrid Fettell Lee reveals what brings people joy.
Research shows that bright colors, curved silhouettes and symmetry are scientifically proven to cheer us up.
She cited several specific examples: a nest of robin’s eggs, hot air balloons in flight, a handful of confetti, and flowers. After a second pandemic winter, families are eager for fun in the sun. And seeing as science backs up the idea that spending time in nature – with its range of colorful hues and soft shapes – makes us healthier and happier, now might be the perfect time for a flower-focused family tradition. As the snowy season’s frigid temps give way to warmer days, we’re greeted by one particularly hardy and early blooming flower: the tulip. Its leaves are among the first slivers of green to emerge from the ground, and its blooms aren’t far behind.
Though many of us associate tulips with Holland, the flower is actually native to central Asia. Tulips began to move west around 1000 A.D. when sultans added large beds of them to palace gardens. Once some bulbs reached Holland in the 1500s, the plant’s popularity skyrocketed. To this day, Holland is still the world’s largest producer of tulips.
These flowers generally symbolize love, but each color has a slightly different meaning. Red tulips, for example, mean romance, while yellow varieties represent happiness, and white flowers seem to say, “I’m sorry.” Tulips come in more than 3,500 varieties sporting an array of colors.
Fortunately for us, hundreds of thousands of these flowers are on display in the region. Two Chicago-area family farms have planted a combined 900,000 bulbs on their land, and they’ve opened the fields for families to enjoy this spring.
These eye-catching flowers only bloom for around three weeks, so don’t wait to plan your trip to a tulip festival. Here’s where you can enjoy these picturesque fields before they’re gone for the season.
Richardson Adventure Farm
Homesteaded in 1836, this Spring Grove-area farm has been in the Richardson family for generations. What began as a 240-acre plot has grown to encompass 540 acres today.
Richardson Adventure Farm has long been a place for families to get lost in a vast corn maze, hunt for the perfect pumpkins and Christmas trees, and even go ziplining. And in 2021, the farm became an even more irresistible family destination with the addition of sunflower and tulip fields.
As many as 600,000 bulbs, spanning 40 varieties, have been planted for this year, ensuring Richardson’s 2022 Tulip Festival provides another awe-inspiring event. Now in its second season, this 8-acre tulip field boasts blooms of all shades.
“I am overjoyed at the thousands of people who come to our farm and have a wonderful time,” says the farm’s co-owner, George Richardson. “The positive comments and emails we get make me happy to think that so many people are getting joy out of this. We need joy in our lives.”
Guests can walk through the fields, take pictures, and even pick their own tulips in designated areas.
“Tulips in their second year of blooming are coming up looking really good and strong,” Richardson says. “You never know in an intensive field environment like this how they’re going to be in their succeeding years.”
According to “The Old Famer’s Almanac,” tulips are perennial plants. But because they’ve been hybridized over the years and the soil in North America isn’t ideal for them, some flowers won’t regrow. This makes the strong return of last year’s crop even more exciting.
While Richardson is proud of the tulip fields, he’s also excited to welcome guests into the farm’s updated gift shop. Homemade popcorn and doughnuts, desserts from local bakeries, freshly brewed coffee, and wine are on the menu in the shop’s new cafe area.
After a stroll through the tulips, families can walk along the farm’s 36-acre lake and challenge each other to a game of giant checkers, Connect Four, Jenga or bags. Plus, there’s live music in the afternoons on Saturday and Sunday.
Tickets to visit the Tulip Festival at Richardson Adventure Farm cost $12 per person Tuesday through Friday and $15 on weekends. Admission includes one free tulip per person. Kids age 3 and under are free. For more information and to buy tickets online, head to richardsonadventurefarm.com.
Kuipers Family Farm
What started as a 71-acre pumpkin patch in 1998 is now a thriving family farm, complete with an apple orchard, animal attractions and more activities that draw families throughout the fall harvest season.
Given the Kuipers family’s Dutch heritage, it’s fitting they’d add a sprawling field of tulips into the mix.
Set on more than 5 acres near Maple Park, the tulip display at Kuipers Family Farm is bursting with color. Kim Kuipers, co-owner of the farm, calls it “Instagram heaven.”
The Kuipers have planted more than 300,000 bulbs from more than 20 varieties on 5 acres for this year’s inaugural festival.
“It’ll be spectacular to see so many flowers blooming at the same time,” Kuipers says. “Each block of flowers is a consistent color, and there are many, many colors. You get that giant pop of color, but the design is like a rolling fan. It will be stunning.”
Kuipers is opening 15 other farm-themed attractions, too, and most are included with admission to Tulip Fest. Kids will love riding down the Mountain Slide and hopping on the Jumping Pillow. Visitors can also expect to see a variety of animals, including adorable baby chickens, ducks, rabbits and goats. There’s also food, entertainment, hard cider and wine, doughnuts, and other farm-made favorites on the weekends.
Kuipers says one of the farm’s goals is to reconnect people with agriculture as well as each other.
“People are so hungry to get out and gather again,” she adds. “It’s been a long winter, and people want to go outside, do something fun, and enjoy spring in the Midwest.”
Planting a new crop is always a challenge, and tulips were no exception.
“It was a big undertaking,” Kuipers says. “We’re pretty savvy farmers with pumpkins and apples, but this is a new venture for us.”
The family went to Washington state to research best practices before planting, as tulip growing is big in that region, says Kuipers.
Tickets can be purchased online at youpickfun.com. Admission costs $12 per person Monday-Friday and $15 on weekends when purchased online; the cost goes up by $3 per person at the gate. Kids age 2 and under are free.
Waiting on Nature
Designing and planting tulip fields for the first time was an exciting challenge for both the Kuipers and Richardson families.
To get hundreds of thousands of bulbs into the ground in the fall, a special planter had to be attached to the back of the tractor. Bulbs were then fed into the machine and planted with precision, ensuring the flowers would grow in the straight rows and other designs that distinguish these tulip fields.
Festivals at Richardson and Kuipers farms officially opened on Mother’s Day after some chilly April weather.
Check each farm’s website and Facebook page for the latest updates. Generally, blooms last about three weeks, but just how long they’ll stick around only Mother Nature can say for sure.