Swatches of red, orange, yellow and purple are emerging out of the soil at Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm, greeting the sunrise each morning as they prepare to blanket the fields in color over the next few months.
But for the first time in 36 years, the annual spring bloom will not be teaming with eager patrons tiptoeing through the tulips at the west Woodburn farm complex.
Organizers for the Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival officially canceled this year's event on Thursday, March 19, notifying guests on the farm's Facebook page on the eve of when the festival was scheduled to begin.
"Currently, for the safety of our staff and our family and all our visitors, we've closed the field," said Barb Iverson, who runs the tulip farm, in the video clip. "We've called the festival off."
The cancellation comes as one more spring event to fall victim to the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
Staff members at Iverson Family Farms had been working in the months leading up to the annual event, which was scheduled to run through May 3. As Oregon Gov. Kate Brown issued restrictions to limit the spread of COVID-19 — including closing schools through April 28, prohibiting dining inside restaurants and banning public gatherings of more than 25 people — the fate of this year's Tulip Fest came into doubt.
In the week leading up to the opening day of Tulip Fest, Iverson announced that the event would be delayed, only to call off the popular agritourism event that drew around 150,000 visitors and generated more than $1 million in revenue last year according to a story by the Capital Press.
"Of course it's going to be a tough year for us, obviously, because this is where we make our income when the field's in bloom," Iverson said. "Our festival is all set up. We were ready to go. We're excited about it."
Iverson said access to the tulip fields will also be prohibited, though staff members would be working on ways to allow the public to see the annual bloom remotely, hoping to have a YouTube channel set up soon to broadcast the fields of flowers.
"We're trying to figure out a way to share the beauty we have out here with everyone and all our fans," she said.
With the tulip bloom lasting beyond the end of the ban on public gatherings and dining out, Iverson did not rule out the possibility that the fields could be reopened in the future.
"If we're able to open the field later this season, watch our website page and we'll keep you updated there too," Iverson said.
But the Tulip Fest will have no such possibility to return this year, and tulip fans will be forced to wait another calendar year before they're able to enjoy the good eats, hay rides, wagon tours and more that have made the festival one of the most popular agritourism events in the state.
"We've created a lot of memories over the years the memories we've had and the support from the people has just been incredible," Iverson said. "It's family traditions, it's coming out and creating those memories, and that breaks my heart because we don't have that this year for everyone."
While the fields and festival will be closed, Wooden Shoe's gift shop, wine room and Red Barn Hemp facility will continue to be open to the public this spring. Patrons also can order tulip bulbs through the Wooden Shoe website and catalog, which are available to pick up in the fall.
"(We have) some membership package deals on our website," Iverson said. "Check those out, because that's a great way to keep us going for 2021 and keep this festival alive."
In a show of support, another area flower farmer, Swan Island Dahlias, is selling Wooden Shoe tulip pots at its fresh flower stand in Canby.
"We reached out to Wooden Shoe after hearing that they were unable to host their festival," said Heather Gitts-Schloe, co-owner at Swan Island. "We strongly believe we must help each other in these uncertain times. The response from our community has been beyond supportive, and many have purchased to spread joy to others."
The pots are $10 each, and exact cash is needed to drop in the payment box as Swan Island is practicing recommended social distancing. They hope that those who choose to visit the farm and purchase tulips will help observe the recommended personal space in the self-serve stand.
According to Gitts-Schloe, Swan Island will sell the tulips through the end of the week and possibly beyond.
Swan Island is experiencing their own struggles through the COVID-19 pandemic, having recently closed their popular year-round gift shop to the public. However, the farm will remain open and they will start phone-in dahlia tuber orders on Wednesday, April 1. This allows local customers to call and place their order one business day prior to their desired pick-up date. Their order will be available the next day for curbside pickup.
Kristen Wohlers contributed to this story.
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