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The historic roots of the Wooden Shoe Tulip Fest

By Casey Knopik

Every tradition has a beginning, and oftentimes those beginnings are by pure chance. Take Oregon's largest tulip festival at Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm in Woodburn, now in its 38th year. If it wasn't for a neighbor's suggestion in 1985 for the Iverson family to open their fields to the public, the Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival might not exist.

To truly appreciate their tulip fields, you have to go back to the beginning. And since the beginning, the farm has always been about family. 

“My parents, Ross and Dorothy, bought the farm in 1950 and they proceeded to have six children because they needed help on the farm,” said Barb Iverson, owner.

Iverson's Dad, Ross, and Mom, Dorothy, taken the mid 1970s.  

The family started growing tulips in 1974 after a farmer in Canby, who had been contract growing the flowers, decided to hang up his gardening gloves. In 1980, the contractor they had been working with retired, and the family bought the bulbs to start growing them for the wholesale bulb market.

“It was a struggle, so in 1983, we started Wooden Shoe Bulb Company to try and help sell bulbs to the retail market,” said Barb. “We'd go to all these garden shows and we didn't sell much. After two years we thought, maybe this was a bad idea. But then we thought, you know Easter's coming and the fields will be in bloom.”

So after taking their neighbor's advice to open the fields, they purchased an ad in the local paper and opened for Easter weekend. And 35 years later, Wooden Shoe Tulip Fest has grown into the largest tulip festival in the state and one of the three largest in the Pacific Northwest. 

But despite this growth, the farm is still about family.

“During the festival, the whole family gets involved,” said Barb. “All six of the original family members and their spouses help out in some way, from banking to parking. And all 24 in the next generation worked for Wooden Shoe in the spring growing up and some of them still come back as adults to lend a hand.”

And to the members of Wooden Shoe, family also means their local community. 

“We want to share in our success and help others, as that helps the whole community,” said Barb. “For parking we solicit groups to help park for a donation which include Kiwanis, Rotary, FFA and school clubs. We solicit local farmers and farm loop members to come out and peddle their produce or even bring animals out like TMK Creamery ‘cowlebrities' or the Marquam Hill Ranch alpacas.”

This year, they are going to have a mini farmer's market on the weekends with local products. They also participate in an adopt-a-road program and clean up over 5 miles of roadside litter in the community, as well are involved with a variety of flower fundraisers benefitting the March of Dime, Easter Seals, Lions Clubs, garden clubs, hospitals and more, giving these groups a great wholesale price to help them
with their causes.

Barb Iverson picking flowers with their dog Molly was taken in the early 1980s. 

Community at Wooden Shoe also means visitors. And these visitors come from all over.

“The last several years we have been putting up maps for people to pin where they are from,” said Barb.  “Last spring, it took only four days into the festival for all 50 states to have a pin in them. Our world map usually has pins in around 130 countries. It's truly amazing. When you walk through the field, you hear a variety of languages, and many visitors will even dress up in their country's traditional dress. It's an opportunity to visit with people from all over the world which is incredible in itself, here on our family farm.”

The Iverson family invites you to become part of their family. Opening weekend for the Wooden Shoe Tulip Fest this year is March 23rd and 24th.

For complete information on how you and your family can experience the Wooden Shoe Tulip Fest, visit Oregon's Mt. Hood Territory

Your adventure begins with the official Willamette Valley Travel Guide. Request your complimentary printed guide or download a digital guide today.

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