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Skagit Valley's tulip growers endure, adjusting excpectations

As the COVID-19 pandemic ramped up locally a year ago, the family that owns RoozenGaarde and Washington Bulb Co. found itself with millions of flowers without buyers at the height of tulip season. Many flowers were donated, but many more were turned to compost. And the family had a serious discussion about the future of their 70-year-old business.

Meanwhile, the new owners of Tulip Town suddenly found themselves facing a similar challenge but from a different perspective — how to make their $1.5 million investment survive a tulip season without people when visitors have traditionally been the farm's biggest source of income.

Now one year later, both farms have endured and adjusted their expectations as the pandemic continues. This year, there will be visitors during the monthlong Skagit Valley Tulip Festival that starts April 1. But it won't look quite like years past. The popular festival draws about 400,000 people annually.

On Friday, the tulip rows were still mostly green at RoozenGaarde and Tulip Town with a few brightly colored tulips daring to bloom before the festival's April start. In the coming weeks, as the rows show more color, both farms will invite visitors in again, but with reservations and tickets to limit capacity and meet COVID-19 safety guidelines.

Brent Roozen, a third-generation grower for RoozenGaarde, said being closed last spring was surreal. “The garden had never looked nicer, the weather was everything we ever dreamed of, and it was an empty garden day after day,” he said. The closure cost RoozenGaarde nearly a year's worth of income. The business earns about 90% of revenue in April from admissions, gift shop, and flower and bulb sales. "The spring is what really hit us, and once that was lost, it was lost for the year," Roozen said.

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