When precautions and guidelines were quickly put in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic in the spring of 2020, dozens — if not hundreds — of events were postponed or canceled outright.
As the year rolled to 2021, it was unclear when large events might return. Now that the state has reopened to business as mostly usual, the events schedule is still not yet full, but things are happening.
Normally, the Skagit Valley bustles with community events, especially in summer, from weekly music and theater to featured events that have been held for decades.
It’s worthwhile to check before you go — schedules are still evolving, dates often change and events that normally occur at a certain time of year may not be at their usual place on the entertainment calendar.
Some of the traditional bigger summer events are making a comeback — and not a moment too soon.
Anacortes Arts Festival
The festival (Aug. 6-8) will be slimmed down somewhat this year — but its most-loved features and associated events will be back.
Rita James, a public relations official with the art show, said the event will have more than 200 booth artisans, and the 16th annual Arts Dash and Fine Arts at the Port will be held prior to the festival on July 31.
“We haven’t heard anything but positive comments,” she said of the event’s return. “The business community relies on us to bring folks to town, and we feel like the community is ready to have an outdoor event again.”
There will be a few changes due to safety measures, such as the elimination of some of the more hands-on kids’ events and the elimination of a music stage and beer garden.
After the disappointing cancellation of Concrete’s signature event of the year in 2020, the small community is eager for a big comeback filled with traditional festivities.
“People are just completely thrilled to get back out, get the kids out and have a good time,” said Madeline Handzlik, spokesperson for the event organized by the Concrete Chamber of Commerce.
Cascade Days is an annual celebration of the Concrete community, its strength and surroundings along the scenic North Cascades Highway. It’s an opportunity for town residents, rural neighbors and vacationers from all over to gather and share in summertime fun.
“We get people from all over the country and Canada … but of course, most of the people are local because they know it happens every year,” Handzlik said.
Whether Canadian visitors can cross the border by the Aug. 21 event or attendance nears its record of about 4,000 in 2019 remains to be seen, but locals are ready to celebrate.
“Because we’re so rural and people are mixed about the vaccinations, they resented the fact that they couldn’t do it last year … They were very disappointed,” Handzlik said. “We’re so excited to come back.”
The annual event is usually held the third full weekend of August. This year it will be condensed into one day, with the major attractions offered Saturday, Aug. 21.
Those attractions include a parade, car show, chainsaw carving competition, the firemen’s muster demonstration, the floating rubber duck race and other family-friendly activities.
Riverwalk Concert series
Live music is returning to Mount Vernon’s Riverwalk Plaza at 509 Main Street on Thursdays in August.
The events, organized by the city and the Mount Vernon Chamber of Commerce, were canceled for the summer of 2020 and remained on hiatus this July.
Area musicians and restaurants are excited to welcome back listeners to the scenic downtown waterfront for the events, 6 to 8 p.m. Thursdays.
There’s no cost to attend. Organizers recommend bringing lawn chairs or blankets, or come prepared to dance.
“This signature event for the Chamber of Commerce is an opportunity for the business and arts community to join together to celebrate the fantastic community,” Mount Vernon Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Andy Mayer said in a notice about the concerts’ return.
The music featured is family-friendly.
Skagit County Fair
The fair will return Aug. 11-14, after 2020’s fair was canceled due to COVID-19.
Fair Manager Aric Gaither said the community can look forward to a pretty normal fair, and he’s expecting strong attendance.
“There are a lot of local events canceled, which increases demand,” he said. “Plus, people are just raring to go.”
No occupancy limits will be in place, and masking will not be required for vaccinated participants, he said. However, staff are planning to add extra space between booths and vendors.
A handful of exhibits — including the petting zoo, public pie-eating contest and a 4-H robotics event — were canceled due to either COVID-19 safety concerns or logistical reasons.
Skagit County Public Health teams will staff a pop-up vaccine clinic during all four days of the fair, Gaither said.
Gaither said his team is “nervously excited” this year, and is working long hours to prepare. They have observed similar events elsewhere breaking attendance records, and are bracing for larger-than-normal crowds.
“We’ve hit this weird collision of variables this year that I think will have us be successful, being one of the only big shows in town,” he said.
Skagit Beer and Wine Festival
While a location has yet to be decided, the Mount Vernon Chamber of Commerce’s Skagit Beer and Wine Festival is also set to return this year.
Being able to bring back that event means a lot, said Operations Director Jeremy Kindlund, who has been involved with it since its creation.
“It’s one of my favorite things to do for the chamber,” he said. “(The attendees are) so happy with that event.”
The event, which draws more than 600 people, features local and regional breweries and wineries, as well as culinary highlights.
Brewfest on the Skagit
According to its website, the Lincoln Theatre’s Brewfest on the Skagit is set to return.
The 19th annual event is scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 14. It will be held at Edgewater Park instead of its usual Riverwalk Park.
“If approved this will be our biggest and best BrewFest ever,” the website states. “Moving the event from Skagit Riverwalk Park to Edgewater Park will give us more room to move and groove.”
Not everything made it back
One summer staple that won’t happen this year is the Skagit Valley Highland Games, which was canceled in April.
Skye Richendrfer, head organizer of the games, said the fact that COVID-19 forced the cancellation of the event two years in a row has been very difficult.
Many of the event’s regular attendees come from Vancouver, B.C., and with the reopening of the Canadian border left uncertain, it would have been risky to go on with the games, he said.
“Not knowing whether our participants could come or not made it such a gamble,” he said.
Richendrfer and Skagit Valley College started this event in 1995, and 2020 was the first year the games weren’t held.
“This is a chance for us to share our music and our traditions … because I believe so much that this is good for the community,” he said.
“It sucks not to do it, and you can quote me on that.”