Canadian Tulip Festival

Canadian Tulip Festival
Photo: tulipfestival.ca
The Canadian Tulip Festival (Festival canadien des tulipes) is one of the highlights of the festival calendar in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Displaying over 1 million tulips, it claims to be the largest tulip festival in the world.

The roots of the festival can be traced back to the Second World War. When the Kingdom of the Netherlands was occupied by Nazi Germany in May 1940, the Dutch royal family fled to the United Kingdom and then some members including Princess Juliana (future Queen of the Netherlands) moved to Ottawa. Princess Margriet, Juliana’s daughter, was born in 1943 in Ottawa Civic Hospital. The Canadian government temporarily declared the maternity ward of the hospital to be extraterritorial to ensure that the baby would inherit Dutch citizenship from her mother.

The Netherlands was liberated in May 1945 and the royal family returned to their home country. As a sign of their gratitude, the royal family sent 100,000 tulip bulbs to Ottawa. A year later, Princess Juliana sent another 20,000 bulbs and requested that they be planted near the Ottawa Civic Hospital. She proceeded to sent 10,000 bulbs each year after that. Another 10,000 bulbs are sent by the Dutch Bulb Growers Association.

Thanks to Juliana’s generous donation, Ottawa became famous for its spectacular tulip sites. It didn’t take long to found the Canadian Tulip Festival. The event was created by Canadian photographer Malak Karsh who served as its honorary president until his death in 2001. Queen Juliana was the guest of honor at the 1967 festival and Prince Margriet visited Ottawa in 2002 on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the event.

The Canadian Tulip Festival is held over three weekends in May, when tulips are in full bloom. Around 500,000 people come to Ottawa to see its displays of tulips. The largest ones are found on the shores of Dow’s Lake in Commissioners Park, in the Garden of the Provinces and Territories, and in Major’s Hill Park.

The program of the festival includes a variety of events and attractions for visitors of all ages. They include a Tulip Ball, a series of outdoor music concerts featuring famous performers (past performers at the festival include Liberace, Alanis Morissette, The Trews, Big Sugar, and General Rudie), art and photography workshops, live performances throughout the festival grounds, firework displays, tours around the city, and more.

Canadian Tulip Festival

Photo: tulipfestival.ca



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