Tulips bloom in the fields at Tulip Town in May 2017 in Mount Vernon. (Andy Bronson / Herald file)

Tulips bloom in the fields at Tulip Town in May 2017 in Mount Vernon. (Andy Bronson / Herald file)

Tulip Festival still a go, but questions remain

By Jacqueline Allison / Skagit Valley Herald

Tulips are on schedule to bloom in several weeks, and at the moment that’s about the only certainty for the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival.

As of Friday afternoon, RoozenGaarde still planned to open its 5-acre display garden for the festival in April, allowing 50 people at a time inside the garden and limiting viewing time to one hour.

However, plans are subject to change. Brent Roozen said the company may need to consult with officials and re-evaluate plans to open, following Friday evening’s announcement from Gov. Jay Inslee that there are no immediate plans to enact more stringent social distancing requirements in the state.

Roozen said the public should check the farm’s website or Facebook page for updates. RoozenGaarde’s website is tulips.com.

“It’s going to be day by day on what we’re allowed to do,” he said. “We’re just trying to find a way to allow as many people to see tulips in a safe and healthy manner and stay in business.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has upended plans for the festival — which runs throughout April and draws about a half-million people annually — through restrictions on gatherings and public health concerns.

There’s a chance that no one will be allowed to view tulips this year, if the state enacts a shelter-in-place order, restricting movement to essential activities.

Roozen said the company is working to generate online content to allow people to view tulips virtually, if they can’t view them in-person.

The pandemic has already hurt the company’s flower sales.

“We had millions of tulips set for delivery and those were just canceled,” Roozen said. “First time in the company’s history.”

He said people can help support the business by purchasing tulip bulbs to plant in their gardens, and buying merchandise.

Tulip Town, the festival’s other grower, has decided not to allow visitors to walk through its fields, as a precaution for public health, said Andrew Miller, CEO of Spinach Bus Ventures, Tulip Town’s owner.

Instead, the farm is looking at laying down wood chips to allow visitors to drive through the fields and view tulips in their cars, weather permitting, Miller said Friday.

The new owners of Tulip Town took over last June, and have been working to upgrade the farm, including renovating the Tulip Town café. Now boxed lunches are on the menu.

The farm has come up with other ideas, such as offering bouquets for sale when people pick up food at local restaurants. Another idea is to sell memberships this spring for fall tulip planting workshops.

“This is just trying to get any amount of revenue,” Miller said. “This is our first year, and what a first year we’ve had.”

Miller said the farm also has ideas to bring the tulips to those who might not be able to access them due to coronavirus concerns. The public will be able to purchase bouquets for patients at local hospitals and nursing homes, and Tulip Town will deliver them, he said.

Roozen said RoozeenGaarde would like to do that, too.

Miller said while other tulip festivals in the region have already canceled, Tulip Town and the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival are pressing forward.

“There is an unprecedented amount of pressure, but we are really, really inspired by the opportunity to innovate,” he said.

As for the events that coincide with the Tulip Festival, 95% have been canceled or rescheduled, said Cindy Verge, the festival’s executive director. The few events set to move forward, for now, include the Tulip Pedal Bike Ride, and art shows at Schuh Farms and Christianson’s Nursery, which typically have fewer than 10 people at a time.

Verge said the Tulip Festival’s office in downtown Mount Vernon will remain closed. She said the festival relies on volunteers in their 70s and 80s who are staying home to protect their health.

Verge said in hard economic times in the past, the Tulip Festival has been an affordable attraction for many. But this time it’s different.

“This is just unprecedented and so much is just a complete unknown,” she said. “It’s just kind of all up in the air how we can do tulips this year.”

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