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The Canadian Tulip Festival claims to be the world's largest tulip festival, with attendance of over 500,000 visitors annually. This major cultural event is held annually in Ottawamarker and Gatineaumarker, Canadamarker, over the course of 18 days in May, concluding with the Victoria Day long weekend.

Although tulips are displayed throughout the city, the most extensive tulip beds are to found in Commissioners Park on the shores of Dow's Lakemarker, and along the Rideau Canalmarker with 300,000 tulips planted there alone. (source NCC brochure).


In 1945, the Dutch royal family sent 100,000 tulip bulbs to Ottawa in gratitude for Canadians having sheltered Princess Juliana and her daughters for the preceding three years during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, in the Second World War.

The most noteworthy event during their time in Canada was the birth in 1943 of Princess Margriet to Princess Juliana at the Ottawa Civic Hospitalmarker. The maternity ward was declared to be officially a temporary part of international territory, so that she would be born in no country and would inherit only her Dutch citizenship from her mother. In 1946, Juliana sent another 20,500 bulbs requesting that a display be created for the hospital, and promised to send 10,000 more bulbs each year.

The festival begins

A Fashion Competition was held at the Tulip Ball in 2006
In the years following Queen Juliana's original donation, Ottawa became famous for its tulips and in 1953 the Ottawa Board of Trade and photographer Malak Karsh organized the first "Canadian Tulip Festival". Queen Juliana returned to celebrate the festival in 1967, and Princess Margriet returned in 2002 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the festival.

Outdoor music concerts

For many years, the festival featured a series of outdoor music concerts in addition to the tulips.The 1972 festival saw Liberace give an opening concert, and at the 1987 festival, Canadian singer Alanis Morissette made her first appearance at the age of 12. The Trews first became widely-known after opening for Big Sugar at the 2003 festival. Montreal's General Rudie also gained valuable exposure early in their career with a performance at the 2000 festival.

After several years of cold and rainy weekends drove the festival to the brink of bankruptcy in 2006, the outdoor music concerts were discontinued. Even though concert admission fees were a source of revenue for the festival, rainy weather contributed to low concert attendance on many occasions, making the concerts a heavy financial risk.

2007: Reorganisation

In 2007, the festival was reorganised under new leadership. The festival was redesigned to focus on promoting international friendship, the original symbolic role of the gift of tulips. Park admission charges were eliminated and a new feature called Celebr'idée: a Celebration of Ideas was introduced. Another component of the 2007 festival was a fund-raising effort in support of War Child Canada.


Beyond celebrating the tulip as a symbol of beauty and friendship, the Canadian Tulip Festival, through Celebridée, aims to present some of the most brilliant thinkers of our time speaking about ideas that matter.

Celebridée has continued to grow since its inception in 2007. 2008’s speakers included such diverse and thought-provoking individuals as Sir Salman Rushdie, Wired Magazine's Chris Anderson, Pulitzer Prize winning author of Guns, Germs and Steel Jared Diamond, and world-renowned pianist Angela Hewitt.

Festival sites and themes

Recent Canadian Tulip Festival Themes
1994 A Tribute to the Origin Country of the Tulip - Turkey
1995 The Friendship That Flowered50th anniversary of the Liberation of Holland
1996 Floral Tribute to Nice
1997 Floral Artistry of Japan
1998 A Celebration of Canada's Provinces and Territories
1999 Between Friends
2000 Tulips 2000: A Capital Celebration!
2001 Tulips Forever! A Salute to Britain
2002 Tulipmania! 50th Anniversary
2003 G’day Australia – Tulips Down Under
2004 Canada’s Tulip Experience
2005 A Celebration of Peace and Friendship
2006 Tulips 2006 – World Flower Rendezvous!
2007 "CelebrIDÉE A Celebration of Ideas" inaugural year

Tulip Sites

Attraction Sites

Partner Sites


Because of the ongoing Canadian support for the Netherlands during the war, Seymour Cobley of the Royal Horticultural Society actually donated 83,000 tulips to Canada from 1941–1943, several years before the Royal Family followed suit.

Photographer Malak Karsh became widely known for his photographs of the Tulip Festival.

While the Netherlands continues to send 20,000 bulbs to Canada each year (10,000 from the Royal Family and 10,000 from the Dutch Bulb Growers Association), by 1963 the festival featured more than 2 million, and today sees nearly 3 million tulips purchased from Dutch and Canadian distributors.


Commissioners Park

2006 tulips at Dows Lake
Park, on the shores of Dow's Lake is a major centre of activity for the Tulip Festival. The largest concentration of tulips in the National Capital Regionmarker — some 300,000 — can be found planted along a section of the lakeshore. Commissioners Park also features buskers and musicians, and artists demonstrating their skills.

Man With Two Hats

The statue Man with Two Hats stands in Commissioners Park. An explanatory plaque contains the following text:
During the Second World War, Canadian soldiers played a crucial role in the liberation of the Netherlandsmarker. With the donation of this monument - an expression of joy and a celebration of freedom - the Netherlands pays lasting tribute to Canadamarker.
A statue identical to this one stands in Apeldoornmarker in the Netherlands. The twin monuments symbolically link Canada and the Netherlands; though separated by an ocean, the two countries will forever be close friends.
Her Royal Highness Princess Margriet of the Netherlands unveiled the monument in Ottawa on May 11, 2002, and the other in Apeldoorn on May 2, 2000.
Artist: Henk Visch

Major's Hill Park

Major's Hill Park tulips during the 2006 festival
addition to tulip beds and buskers, Major's Hill Park features a large tented International Pavilion with culture, food and entertainment from a number of different countries. Crafts and activities for children are offered by some of the international pavilions which are operated by embassies and local community groups.

Varying international exhibits have been featured during many years of the festival's history, but international representation was expanded to 15 countries in 2007, and again to 25 in 2008.

Other sites throughout the National Capital Region

2005 Garden of the Provinces & Territories
Garden of the Provinces and Territoriesmarker, located directly across from Library and Archives Canadamarker on Wellington Street is one of many sites that the National Capital Commission plants with thousands of tulips. Others include Parliament Hillmarker, the banks of the Rideau Canalmarker, and in Gatineau, Jacques Cartier Parkmarker, Montcalm-Taché Park, and the Malak flowerbed behind the Canadian Museum of Civilization.

See also


External links

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