After being unable to host visitors in 2020, the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival returned Thursday, with people traveling from all over to take part in the beloved event.

“We’re excited,” said Brent Roozen, whose family owns RoozenGaarde and Washington Bulb Co.

With safety precautions in place — including the requirement that tickets to visit either of the farms be purchased online in advance — RoozenGaarde and Tulip Town — opened their gates.

With most of the tulips just beginning to bloom — but RoozenGaarde’s daffodils in full bloom — both farms were relatively quiet, although some people chose to take advantage of the weekday morning to visit the fields.

“I grew up coming to see the tulips,” said Sarah Kahn of Stanwood, who reserved one of the first time slots available Thursday morning at Tulip Town. “I really wanted to support them.”

Kahn and Peter Palmer were the first in line to use one of Tulip Town’s new “experience passes,” where those who purchase a pass can go into the fields with one of the farm’s growers to pick their own bouquets.

At 8 a.m., as the morning haze began to lift and the farm opened its doors, Kahn and Palmer took photos and soaked in the opportunity to ask employees Olga Flores and Maria Sala about when to pick and how to keep the flowers.

“We want to make the most of this experience,” Kahn said.

The experience pass is one of the changes at Tulip Town this year — the first year it has been open under new ownership.

For the Mount Vernon High School friends who purchased the farm in June 2019, not being able to welcome visitors in their first year was hard, especially because of how personal the flowers have become to many, said co-owner Andrew Miller.

Like it did for many, COVID-19 required the new owners to adapt with the times and focus, he said, on what they could do instead of what they couldn’t.

“We rewrote our business plan (because of COVID-19), but it didn’t change our purpose,” said Miller. “Our purpose is to bring people together.”

Even with the COVID-19 health and safety measures in place, the farm is looking forward to spotlighting Skagit County and its beauty, he said.

“We love the idea of establishing the idea that this is where spring starts,” Miller said. “Spring has a zip code, and it’s Tulip Town.”

The farm is looking forward to hosting the annual “locals night” on April 14, Miller said. Being locals themselves, that event will have special meaning.

“It’s one thing to share (the festival) with everybody, it’s another thing to share it with our neighbors,” he said. “It’s about the community for us. That’s how we’ve been able to power through the uncertainty.”

Even with the state beginning to reopen, RoozenGaarde is prepared to be flexible and pivot should that become necessary, Roozen said.

Not being able to have the festival last year was “surreal,” especially because the season was such a good one, he said.

“It was too bad, to say the least, that we couldn’t share it with everyone,” Roozen said.

With evenings and mornings that are colder than usual for this time of year, the tulip season may last longer, he said.

For some, a longer season might help to make up for what was lost last year.

— Reporter Kera Wanielista: 360-416-2141, kwanielista@skagitpublishing.com, Twitter: @Kera_SVH, facebook.com/KeraReports

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