The Canadian Tulip Festival Features the Flotilla: Parading Boats on Dows Lake
The historical background of the tulip is surprisingly interesting: as a flower it is native to southern Europe, northern Africa and Asia, all the way from Anatolia and Iran east to northeast China and Japan. The tulip is the national flower of Iran and Turkey, and Persian and Turkish folk art prominently feature tulip motifs. Over the centuries tulips became more popular and moved westwards where Holland became the world’s primary tulip producer.
During the 1600s Holland was gripped by a regular “tulip mania” which makes the stock market crash of 1929 pale in terms of its speculatory excesses. At the peak of this crazy historic period, enormous prices were charged for a single tulip bulb. Today the term “tulip mania” has come to mean any large economic bubble. The historic appeal of the tulip has continued, evidenced by the fact that the Tulip Festival is Ottawa’s biggest festival, and incidentally the largest festival of its kind in the world. It attracts somewhere between 600,000 and 650,000 visitors in 19 days and generates C$ 70 million in revenue for the National Capital Region.
It is interesting to note that the Canadian Tulip Festival is a non-profit organization that only has three full-time employees year round. Leading up to the festival staff levels grow to 45 full-time employees and more than 1200 volunteers who play an integral part of this special event. The Canadian Tulip Festival enjoys the generous support of major sponsors such as the Casino du Lac-Leamy and the Hilton Lac Leamy, CTV, the Ottawa Citizen and Sun Life Financial.
Government Partners include the City of Ottawa, the Federal Government (Human Resources Development, Canada Economic Development for Quebec Regions and Heritage Canada), Ontario’s tourism marketing agency (“Ontario – More To Discover”), the National Capital Commission (who is the “official gardener “of Canada’s Capital) as well as the City of Gatineau. From corporate sponsors, to public sector partners to private individuals, the Canadian Tulip Festival is a magnificent collaborative effort that mobilizes the entire National Capital Region on the Ontario and Quebec side and attracts visitors from all over the world.
The Tulip Festival has four official sites, all lavishly decked out with flower beds featuring different varieties of the coveted tulip. Parliament Hill, Majors Hill Park, Commissioners Park next to Dow’s Lake and the Casino du Lac-Leamy are all official Tulip Festival sites and host a variety of events, concerts and displays during an almost three week period.
The Capital Infocentre on Parliament Hill provides all the necessary information for visitors of the Tulip Festival and the Parliament Buildings are adorned by thousands of these iconic spring flowers. Commissioner’s Park showcases more than 350,000 tulips planted by the National Capital Commission. The Casino du Lac-Leamy in Gatineau on the other side of the Ottawa River has been hosting the “Tulip Explosion” for the last three years. This event encompasses floral shows, dress and hair design competitions as well as floral design competitions. Seven different schools compete for the top prize in floral design. Major’s Hill Park plays host to the Tulip Friendship Village, the Artisans Marketplace, to the Family Zone entertainment area as well as the Get Out! Ottawa Citizen Concert Series.
Benoît also informed me of the 16 attraction sites that are part of the Tulip Festival: all of Ottawa’s and Hull / Gatineau’s major attractions are part of this spring festival. Some of the attractions on this long list include the Canadian Agriculture Museum, the Dows Lake Pavilion, the Canadian Museum of Nature, the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography, the Rideau Centre, the National Gallery of Canada, the Royal Canadian Mint, the Canadian War Museum, Little Italy and many more.
There is no doubt that the Canadian Tulip Festival with all its attractions, special events, concerts and displays is a major tourist draw. Even the couple from Rochester that I met at the Auberge McGee said that the Tulip Festival was the main draw for them to come to Ottawa and it’s a wonderful way to get to know the City of Ottawa and its neighbour Gatineau across the River. It’s a great opportunity to celebrate the arrival of spring and the international friendships that are symbolized by the Canadian Tulip Festival.