MOUNT VERNON, Wash. — The Skagit Valley Tulip Festival was one of the pandemic's first economic victims in our area, but it has survived, although it will look different this year.
Workers are readying the flower fields at Tulip Town after the most challenging year in the farm's nearly 40-year history.
"We were not gonna let tulips fail overall," says Tulip Town CEO Andrew Miller. "This is too important."
You'll pay for a three-hour window.
Miller says up to 3,000 people at a time will be allowed to roam through the farm's five million flowers.
"We are required to ask people to wear masks. We will have our COVID protocol officers in case people get too close, but we don't expect any problems. People want to just be outside, take some pictures and see the flowers."
Tulip Festival Executive Director Cindy Verge says the annual event typically brings roughly 400,000 visitors and $65 million into the local economy.
"It's spectacular that we're able to do something this year," Verge said.
However, her optimism is tempered. The lingering impacts of the pandemic remain.
The 30 to 40 events and activities usually tied to the festival are canceled, once again. That means fewer opportunities to get people inside the small businesses that are still deeply hurting.
Then there's what Verge calls the "multiplier effect."
"Say you're the waitress at the restaurant and your tip money pays for your vacation, but this year you didn't have one. Or maybe it buys you that new dishwasher. It definitely is a big hit for everybody," Verge said.
But there are some encouraging signs. At Tulip Town, 75,000 people have already bought tickets — in just the first 10 days of sales.
It has Andrew Miller believing there will be many more sunny days ahead.
"We are so excited to have a full parking lot, to have the families out here and to see people having fun again."
The first official day of the Tulip Festival is April 1.