Wamego in full bloom for 35th Annual Tulip Festival

Thousands of visitors come to the Wamego Tulip Festival that is held each spring in the City of Wamego. (Benjamin Voller | Collegian Media Group)

A little slice of the Netherlands exists in Wamego, Kansas, on April 23-24 during the 35th Annual Wamego Tulip Festival. The town will be in full bloom, bustling with vendors and guests against a backdrop of 20,000 Dutch tulips.

Kara Holle, director of events and tourism for the Wamego Area Chamber of Commerce, said she is looking forward to seeing residents and out-of-towners alike emerge to enjoy the Wamego Tulip Festival.

“People have been cooped up over the winter,” Holle said. “It’s time to get out and enjoy the beautiful weather.”

Holle has been involved with the arts and crafts fair for several years and said the event plays a special role in her life.

(Grace Needham | Collegian Media Group)
Wamego Children's Train in Wamego, Kansas. (Grace Needham | Collegian Media Group)

“It’s important to me because I have lived in Wamego for 33 years, so the Tulip Festival was only two years old when I moved here,” Holle said. “I volunteered for it for many years before I actually started working for the chamber, so it’s just been a part of my life for 33 years.”

The event features craft vendors, food trucks and other activities for adults and children. Fudge, kettle corn and funnel cakes are just some of the delicacies making an appearance, and shoppers will have the chance to peruse a variety of handmade jewelry, woodworks and leather crafts.

“I’ve been working with these vendors for the last eight years, and they’ve just become a part of my heart,” Holle said. “I love seeing their faces every year, and they’re just so fun to work with.”

(Grace Needham | Collegian Media Group)
"Toto in the Tulips" by Lorinda Sultzer. Wamego is filled with several Toto the dog statues — from "The Wizard of Oz" — each with a different design. (Grace Needham | Collegian Media Group)

Boo Boo’s Concessions, one of over 100 vendors taking part in the Wamego Tulip Festival, is selling its famous funnel cakes this weekend. Ted Boatwright, owner of Boo Boo’s, said the festival is what got him interested in the concessions business and was the first event he ever worked on.

“We actually got into the business and started there at the Tulip Festival because it looked like something that would be kind of fun to do,” Boatwright said. “We just got hooked on it.”

Boatwright expressed appreciation for the staff at the Wamego Tulip Festival. He said he has not always had such positive experiences at large events.

“We have been to some events where they basically are just selling real estate,” Boatwright said. “You’ll pull up there and you’ll find out that they have eight other vendors selling the same thing you’re selling. That’s not the case with the Tulip Festival. They make sure that they have a variety of vendors and different foods are limited so that you don’t end up with everybody selling the same thing.”

Many vendors return to the Wamego Tulip Festival year after year. Boatwright said he has formed great friendships working side-by-side with others over the 23 years he’s attended.

(Benjamin Voller | Collegian Media Group)
Vendors set up for the Wamego Tulip Festival on April 21, 2022. (Benjamin Voller | Collegian Media Group)

“Almost all the vendors get along real well,” Boatwright said. “If you run out of a product, somebody’s going to help you out. It’s just a really, really good bunch of people.”

Staff and vendors have spent hours preparing for the 4,000 to 6,000 expected attendees — Boatwright and his family being no different.

“My wife tells me we’re going to have to look at thinking about getting out of the business,” Boatwright said. “She said 23 years is long enough and she’s ready to relax. It’s extremely hard work. A lot of people think you just show up and take money and go home, but when you’re working in there, you are just running your tail off.”

The Wamego Tulip Festival is meant to celebrate the town’s beauty and the coming of spring. It constantly evolves to give guests the best experience possible.

“The Tulip Festival has just always been good,” Boatwright said. “They’ve tried really hard to keep making it better and to keep it going. I think that is something they can really be proud of. I think they just do a good job with everybody, the public and the vendors. They really do.”