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The Tulip Festival begins Monday, but when can you actually expect to see blooms?

Take a 360-degree tour of the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival

Take a 360-degree tour of the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival at Roozengarde on April 14, 2017 in Mount Vernon, Washington.
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Take a 360-degree tour of the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival at Roozengarde on April 14, 2017 in Mount Vernon, Washington.

The annual Skagit Valley Tulip Festival opens Monday, but don’t be surprised if all you see so far is the bright yellow beauty of daffodils in the fields.

The daffodils are part of the festival, but the tulips are the stars.

When they do bloom, they will turn winter’s bare fields in Skagit County into spring’s stunning landscapes of yellow, orange, red, purple and colors in between.

There may be some in bloom the following weekend, according to Cindy Verge, executive director of Skagit Valley Tulip Festival.

Frigid temperatures affected the tulips.

“The February and March — if you remember we had snow here in Skagit Valley on March 8 or 9 — cold delayed the tulips substantially,” Verge told The Bellingham Herald. “But, then, the very warm spring weather we have experienced lately have brought them along rapidly, making the bloom period very close to normal.

“Typically, the tulips start to show color on average about April 1 and come into bloom between April 3 and 5,” she added. ”We likely are a couple of days later than that, but not much.”

Scenes from the first day of the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival at RoozenGaarde on April 1, 2016 in Mount Vernon, Wash. Music is "Brooks" by Kai Engel.

Here are some tips before you head out to the 36th Skagit Valley Tulip Festival:

A lot of people love the tulip festival, which runs through April 30. We mean a lot. So the Washington State Department of Transportation wants to remind people to expect peak festival traffic on weekends and at the State Route 536/Kincaid Street exit from Interstate 5.

At its busiest on the weekend, traffic can clog up Mount Vernon and back up onto I-5. So consider these alternate exits:

Exit 230 (SR 20/Burlington/Anacortes): State Route 20 is good for drivers traveling from the north or those from the south who want to avoid the congested traffic in town.

Exit 221 (SR 534/Conway/La Conner): Northbound travelers can avoid backups farther up I-5 by taking this exit and going west toward Conway.

Trying to beat the crowds? Go on weekdays, when there’s less traffic.

The daffodils and tulips are growing in a number of fields that are spread miles apart in the Skagit Valley on narrow county roads, WSDOT said, adding that a walking tour isn’t advised.

Visitors should drive, carpool or bicycle along the designated Tulip Route, which is marked with green signs.

There also are guided tours.

If you want to take photos, don’t do it while you’re driving. If everyone in your vehicle wants to get out to admire tulips, go to the display gardens at RoozenGaarde or Tulip Town where there’s designated parking. But access to the tulip farms and their parking requires an admission fee of $5, $7 or $10 per person.

Shoulder parking is very limited. You will be ticketed.

There are no public restrooms in the tulip fields. There are in the display gardens, but you need to buy tickets to enter the gardens.

More details are online at tulipfestival.org. Find a “bloom map” at tulips.com/bloommap.

In this timelapse video, Bellingham artist Ben Mann shows how he created the poster for the 2019 Skagit Valley Tulip Festival.

Kie Relyea has been a reporter at The Bellingham Herald since 1997 and currently writes about social services and recreation in Whatcom County. She started her career in 1991 as a reporter and editor in Northern California.
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