In a flower, friends remember Idaho victim
By Serafina Lemos
In the colorful fields of the Skagit Valley’s tulip farms, many local high school students find work.
Ethan Chapin, a lifelong resident of Skagit Valley, was one of those kids.
“My favorite memory of Ethan is just him, standing there with a big smile in a tulip field,” said Andrew Miller, CEO and owner of Tulip Valley Farms. “So I said, ‘okay, we have two iconic things here- tulips are iconic for our community, and Ethan’s smile was iconic for him’.”
Chapin was one of four University of Idaho students murdered in an off-campus home on Nov. 13. This tragic event left several communities shaken.
Reese Gardner, a close friend and coworker of Chapin, was one of many who was devastated by the news.
After taking time to process what had happened, Gardner wanted to do something to honor his friend and remember the good times they shared working and spending time together, including on Miller’s farm.
“I really wanted to do something to remember Ethan in a positive way, so I went to Andrew for help and that’s where the idea of naming a tulip mix after him came from,” Gardner said. “Because that’s where I met him and we became friends, in the tulip fields.”
Together Miller and Gardner thought of “Ethan’s Smile,” a yellow-and-white tulip mixture. White symbolizes Chapin’s bright smile and yellow symbolizes the University of Idaho. The mixture’s bulbs are being sold online through the farm’s website, and are being shipped to doorsteps in October. A pack of 25 bulbs is $25.
A portion of the proceeds from Ethan’s Smile products and merchandise are going to the Ethan’s Smile Foundation, a foundation created by the Chapins to fund scholarships for students in the Skagit Valley, and the rest will go to the University of Idaho.
This is Tulip Valley Farm’s first year as an official farm of the annual tulip festival. At the farm, there’s a booth that sells Ethan’s Smile merchandise, which includes t-shirts and sweatshirts, but also fresh cut bouquets of the new mixture.
In the booth you will may Jim and Stacy Chapin, the parents of Ethan Chapin. The Chapins are volunteering at the farm in the Ethan’s Smile booth during the festival, greeting and connecting with community members that stop by to show support for their family.
“What I love about Jim and Stacy being on the farm this season is that every time I walk by, they are smiling,” Miller said. “I’ll go by the booth during the day and see Stacy standing in the entryway hugging people who are coming to share their memories of Ethan or their condolences.”
Many different people worked to help bring Miller and Gardner’s original vision to life. Trisha Love, a merchandiser at Tulip Valley Farms, was one of those people.
“My job was to coordinate and display the items that were for sale in the pop-up tent provided, which included the merchandise that will remember Ethan Chapin,” Love said.
Love said that she has done merchandising for Miller for years, but this project was extra special for her.
“Watching a family who is deep in grief, and to have an outlet and a sense of support and love from others to honor their son, was magical,” she said. “His memory will live on in the community and I was so touched by everyone’s willingness to support this great cause.
As of now, Tulip Valley Farms has sold over 100,000 Ethan’s Smile tulip bulbs.
Today, Gardner holds his memories with Ethan close to heart.
“Working at the tulip farm with him was amazing. There were around 15 of us, all in high school and really good friends. I wouldn’t even call it working, we basically got paid to hangout,” he said. “Ethan was really a one-in-a-million kind of guy, and I just want people to know how amazing he was.”