The Skagit Valley sits about an hour north of Seattle and is home to a lot of tulip farms. The spring is the time for the tulip festival. Unfortunately, the beginning of the festival was not a great time for us to get up there with other things going on. However, as things calmed down for us, we were able to get up there towards the end of things. We may have missed the peak time but there was still some impressive stuff to see (and hopefully quite a few less people!).
The fields were absolutely full of tulips. They filled your field of view and you quickly became blasé about the vibrance of color around you. Finding a way to try and convey the sight was a little trickier. The thing I did find particularly visually appealing was the way that people would be walking along the paths between the flowers but appear to be afloat in a sea of flowers. They were all busy photographing themselves in amongst the tulips so were not aware that they were the subject of more than one photo.
Ski resorts are designed around the winter season and, come the summer, they can often be rather deserted. The weather was warm and sunny during our visit to Squaw Valley Olympic Village but the place was far from quiet. There was a festival underway so the center of the resort was filled with stalls from various vendors selling all sorts of things but mainly focused on art and craft type items. Meanwhile, bands were playing at a couple of stages.
The event was obviously very popular and large numbers of people were milling about. Some of the lifts up the mountains were also still in use. Obviously a lot has changed since the days of the Winter Olympics in the 60s but there are still signs around the town of the history of the games having been there. I imagine the winter games were a lot lower key in those days but I still imagine the valley was pretty busy at that time. It would have been quite an influx of people. I wonder what the evening entertainment was like then.
Castroville CA is the self proclaimed artichoke capital of the world. Given the percentage of the world’s artichokes that are grown there, I doubt anyone is going to try and challenge them for the title. They seem to have it wrapped up. To celebrate the artichoke, the town holds an artichoke festival. This has become quite a popular event and has now migrated from Castroville to the County fairgrounds in Monterey. This seemed like something worth a visit. While you could find all sorts of things at the festival and try artichoke in many forms – artichoke cupcakes anyone – and have your picture taken with Arty the Artichoke, the thing that really caught our imagination was the artichoke art.
People sculpt various installations using artichokes and other vegetables. They may plan as long as they like but they have to bring the raw ingredients on the morning of the competition and create the art there and then. Some of them were really impressive. My favorite was the pig although several of the others looked pretty cool.
Every year in the run up to Christmas, the traders on the Magnificent Mile in Chicago have a parade to get the shoppers interested. The parade has a strong Disney theme to it and attracts large numbers of families with small kids. You might be surprised to know this is not a big deal to me. However, they do finish it off with a fireworks display on the Chicago River and that is something I am happy to see.
Finding a spot to watch them from is something that is not so easy since a huge number of people are already there to see the parade. I had intended to stand on the Wabash Avenue bridge which provides a good view along the river to the display. However, that was not possible since the bridge was full of people looking at the parade, even though it was a long way away. However, dropping down to the river level provided a spot that did not give a good view of the parade but was absolutely fine for the fireworks.
I got set up with two cameras, one for stills and another for video. Rather than take a full tripod setup, I took a couple of Gorillapods to mount on to the railings along the river. This proved to be a good setup. It was flexible, easy to carry and didn’t get in anyone else’s way. One downside is that a tripod does tend to act as a bit of a deterrent to passers by. This setup seemed to encourage people to bring their kids close to my stuff so I had to make sure the kids kept their hands to themselves since their parents didn’t seem bothered about what they were up to.
If herding the sheep weren’t enough, there were other dogs being put through their paces. An agility course had been laid out and a bunch of owners were running their dogs through the course. From what I could see, there wasn’t a particular route that was supposed to be followed. Instead, they seemed to go wherever they felt like it.
Of course, when I say where they felt like it, I don’t always mean the owners. One dog in particular was very excited but not at all interested in the course. it ran in circles and barked at its owner until she finally gave up. They had another go a little later but that ended the same way.
Some of the dogs, though, were very skillful and could zip across the jumps and through the poles without pausing. A fun thing to watch for a while, particularly when it was too hot to move for a bit!
Nothing like playing a winter sport like rugby on an 85 degree day. Why not make it sevens just in case you weren’t warm enough. I strolled across to see some of the rugby later in the afternoon. Having been a rugby fan for many years, I thought I would see how the play was going.
Sevens is a trickier version of the game since it is a lot faster and it requires handling to be very slick. I don’t know the pedigree of the players I was watching but I wouldn’t be surprised if the heat was affecting their game.
A Scottish winter and an Illinois summer are very different climates in which to be playing. The ground was certainly wet underfoot after the recent rain but the temperature was high and the humidity higher so I think something as energetic as sevens was a stretch. However, they still played hard and followed the rugby tradition of trying to harm your opponent at every opportunity.
As part of the Scottish celebrations, there was a demonstration of sheep dogs at work. This was something I always thought of a either a northern England or Welsh activity but I guess it is a big deal in Scotland too. Anyway, a bunch of dogs were taking it in turns to demonstrate their skills with a small flock of sheep brought in especially for the occasion.
The dogs and the shepherds were certainly very effective. They could move the flock wherever they felt like it (although the attempt to split the flock in two was a little less successful). The dogs were really fun to watch as they zipped around the flock and then froze on the ground until needed again.
The sheep were amazing as well. These creatures are obviously very fixated on one thing. Eating! The dogs could get them quite jumpy but a second alter they would forget everything and start munching on the grass. I suspect if left alone, they wouldn’t move far at all as long as the grass lasted!