Puddle Jumpers: A visit to the Debuck’s Family Farm Tulip Festival


Combine slide at Debuck's Family Farm

Combine slide at Debuck's Family Farm. Photo by Sherlonya Zobel.

Our trip to Debuck’s Family Farm Tulip Festival started online. I had seen a gorgeous photo of vibrantly colored tulips as I mindlessly scrolled on my phone in what I like to think of as bedtime vacation. I wondered where these tulips were, and found that they were in Belleville.

“Our Belleville?” I thought.

After checking the family calendar and the weather forecast, we landed on Sunday at 11 am and purchased our timed ticket. At the point of sale, the forecast for Sunday was a warm and sunny day, closer to 80 than 70 degrees. When we loaded into the car, it was 63 degrees outside and the sky was decidedly gray.

I had prepped our four-year-old son for an adventure the day before, asking him if he wanted to see some colorful flowers. When I asked him whether he wanted me to tell him what kind of flowers we were going to see, or if he wanted to be surprised, he replied, “I want to go to an aquarium of flowers.”

Maybe he willed the rain upon us.

Looking for parking-lot puddles at Debuck's Family Farm.

Looking for parking-lot puddles. Photo by Sherlonya Zobel.

When we arrived, it was clear that many others had chosen the same weekend endeavor. The parking lot was populated, but not so crowded that we didn’t feel comfortable letting the young guy mender toward the entrance holding his own umbrella. 

This is when he noticed the puddles. To be clear, this is neither a complaint nor a criticism and there was nothing out of the ordinary going on with these rain puddles. It’s just that our son has entered his puddle era. In fact, today, I’ll call him Puddles.  When I looked around I saw that other parents had thought to outfit their children in rain boots. We had only gone as far as Crocs.

Fortunately, DeBucks can boast a well-run admission process. I showed them the receipt I had texted to my phone, and within moments, I had our wristbands in hand.

This isn’t my first parenting rodeo, so I decided that we should make our first stop the concession stand. If we had a family crest, it would involve the word hangry. We strategically purchased kettle corn so that if someone got peckish, we had the antidote. This is the only money that we spent aside from the price of admission. Because of the way that the farm was set up, once we cleared that area, Puddles, who is never shy with requests, didn’t ask for anything else. 

“Don’t you even think about it,” I heard my husband say warningly. The young man had spotted another puddle. 

Looking over Debuck's Family Farm from a straw mountain.

Checking out the tulip festival from atop Straw Mountain. Photo by Sherlonya Zobel.

With our kettle corn in our bag, we headed deeper into the farm where we saw a very enticing slide … along with burlap bags that were somehow related to the slide? We are older parents, my husband and I. We see slides and we think about our backs and other questions of self-preservation. But when I saw my son’s saucer eyes, I thought, “We’re doing this.”

But first, we stayed at the bottom of the hill watching the family in front of us, who had a child around the same age as ours. It looked fun!

So, Puddles and I climbed up a hill, I ignored the sign that warned that this slide wasn’t recommended for young children, sat on our burlap sacks, slid, and survived.

When our four-year-old finds something that he likes, he wants to wear it out. Luckily we were able to distract him with a wagon ride to the tulips. When we arrived, I saw that the field of tulips lived up to the expectations that Instagram had given me. 

Puddles? He saw water. Referring to what may have been a drainage area, I didn’t look too closely, too busy trying to keep him moving, he said breathlessly, “Look at this water!”

Purple tulips at Debuck's Family Farm.

Purple tulips at Debuck's Family Farm. Photo by Sherlonya Zobel.

When we got closer to the flowers, he became enchanted with them, too. Unrushed, we looked at row after row of flowers. Puddles remarked upon their beauty. Of course, he wanted to see the purple tulips first. We didn’t hear a single peep about Sonic the Hedgehog, which is unheard of within earshot of Puddles. In this unusual quiet,  I flirted with a metaphor about how one plant can have so many variations but succumbed to simply enjoying myself instead.

We were not the only ones transfixed and transformed by the flowers. I am the family member who is wont to whip out her phone to photograph any number of things. Every time I turned around, my husband was taking photos just like virtually everyone else. There were families taking photos with tripods they brought with them. There was a woman in a flowing dress getting a friend to take pictures as she ran—galloped? pranced?—in different directions in the foreground to a flower backdrop. 

Shooting hoops at Debuck's Family Farm.

Country-style hoopin'. Photo by Sherlonya Zobel.

“I’m ready to go home,” Puddles declared.

We began to make our way back toward where the wagon would take us toward the exit. But first, we played a basketball game, reminiscent of what you would find in an amusement park.

On the way back, I informed my husband that we would not be leaving the park without first visiting a structure I had noticed both on Debuck’s website and then on the initial wagon ride. 

The corn box.

The cornbox at Debuck's Family Farm.

Ready to swim in the corn box. Photo by Sherlonya Zobel.

I led my skeptical husband and my son, who had had enough, to the corn box. That’s when Puddles got his second wind. 

Imagine an above-ground swimming pool filled with dried corn.

Puddles dove in, scooping and digging, and of course, “swimming.”

My husband, an engineer, followed the instincts that led him to his career choice and set upon discovering the depth of the corn box.

One word of warning about the corn box: If you put your bare legs in there, when you get out you will look like you forgot to put lotion on before you left the house!

Riding his second wind, Puddles discovered a generous selection of activities, and he embraced the opportunities. He found more slides, pretended to be a train conductor, climbed to the top of “straw mountain” with parental assistance, and played on a pirate ship. He also rode on the back of a bike with his dad, encouraging him to go through a respectable—you guessed it—puddle. Then, he decided to get on a kid-sized bike and make a go of it himself. He wasn’t deterred when he, attempting to gain momentum, tipped the bike over. Tearlessly he remounted the trike, built up speed, and successfully steered himself through a puddle of the highest order, a mud puddle.

Yellow tulips at Debuck's Family Farm.

Saying goodbye to the yellow tulips. Photo by Sherlonya Zobel.

When all was said and done, we had spent two-and-a-half tear-free hours out together as a family, which is a feat with our full-of-feels four-year-old. We took photos that we’re likely to actually print, no one got hangry, and our nap-resistant nipper even slept that afternoon.

The experience is described on Debuck’s Family Farm website as "a delightful farm adventure that will leave you with lasting smiles and heartwarming moments.” 

We concur.

Sherlonya Zobel is the deputy director of the Ann Arbor District Library.

This year’s Debuck’s Family Farm Tulip Festival is listed as April 24-May 5, but the dates are “tentative and subject to change based on status.”