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Canadian Tulip Festival

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Canadian Tulip Festival
Tulips at Parliament Hill in 2019
Dates2 weeks leading through Victoria Day
Location(s)Ottawa, National Capital Region, Ontario, Canada
Years active1953 – present

The Canadian Tulip Festival (French: Festival Canadien des Tulipes; Dutch: Canadees Festival van de Tulp) is a tulip festival held annually each May in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. The festival claims to be the world's largest tulip festival, displaying over one million tulips,[1] with attendance of over 650,000 visitors annually.[2] Large displays of tulips are planted throughout the city, the largest of which are often in Commissioners Park on the shores of Dow's Lake, and along the Rideau Canal with 300,000 tulips planted there alone.[3]

The festival is a cultural and historical aspect of the special Canada–Netherlands relationship, having originated with commemorative donations of tulips to Canada from the Netherlands for Canadian actions during World War II, when Canadian forces led the liberation of the Netherlands and hosted the Dutch royal family in exile.[4][5][6] 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).[7]


Red tulips blooming in 1952.

During World War II, Seymour Cobley of the Royal Horticultural Society donated 83,000 tulips to Canada from 1941 to 1943 to honour Canadian involvement in the war. However, his donation is not known to have resulted in any major events or festivals.[7]

In 1945, the Dutch royal family sent 100,000 tulip bulbs to Ottawa in gratitude for Canadians having sheltered the future Queen Juliana and her family for the preceding three years during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. The most noteworthy event during their time in Canada was the birth in 1943 of Princess Margriet at the Ottawa Civic Hospital. The maternity ward was temporarily declared to be extraterritorial by the Canadian government, thereby allowing Princess Margriet's citizenship to be solely influenced by her mother's Dutch citizenship.[8][9] 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. By 1963 the festival featured more than 2 million tulips, rising to nearly 3 million by 1995.[7]

Princess Margriet of the Netherlands attending the Canadian Tulip Festival in May 2002.

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.

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.[10][11] The Trews first became widely known after opening for Big Sugar at the 2003 festival. Montreal's General Rudie also gained exposure early in their career with a performance at the 2000 festival.

For a dozen years between 1994 and 2006, the Canadian Tulip Festival celebrated countries all across the world, who have also adopted the Tulip as a symbol of international friendship.[citation needed]

In the early 2000s, the festival became less focused on tulips, with more emphasis placed on other attractions such as the concerts and a crafts fair. Additionally, weather over the past years had affected admissions and ticket sales; when poor weather and low ticket sales for a performance by The Guess Who in 2003 made the festival lose an estimated $100,000, later concerts featured less-prominent bands, but these led to even lower ticket sales due to audiences' unfamiliarity with them, only lowered by worsening weather. In October 2006 the festival filed for bankruptcy. Despite a bailout of $75,000 from the city, in 2006 the festival had only $65,000 against debts of $750,000. To rescue the festival, David Luxton, CEO of Ottawa-based explosive detection systems manufacturer Allen-Vanguard, purchased the debt to allow it to reorganize.[11]

In 2007, the festival was reorganised under new leadership. Park admission charges were eliminated and a new feature called Celebridée: a Celebration of Ideas was introduced. Another component of the 2007 festival was a fund-raising effort in support of War Child Canada. Celebridée continued to grow since its inception in 2007. 2008's speakers included Sir Salman Rushdie, Wired's Chris Anderson, author Jared Diamond, and pianist Angela Hewitt.[citation needed]

Crown-shaped orange Liberation75-tulips (formerly known as the Orange Emperor variety) in 2005.

In 2019, the festival once again changed leadership and management, into the hands of a younger board and management team. The goal of this team was to "Re-Root" the festival in its history and horticulture. The festival was returned to a single-site at Commissioners Park, with a Veterans Day ceremony at Beechwood Cemetery.

In 2020, the planned celebrations for the 75th Anniversary of the Liberation of the Netherlands were conducted virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic, using aerial photography and 360-degree image captures to display the tulips. As part of the Liberation75 commemoration campaign, 1.1 million orange crown-shaped Liberation75-tulips (formerly known as the Orange Emperor variety), in addition to the deep red Canadian Liberator-tulips, were sent from growers in the Netherlands and planted across Canada to honour the 1.1 million Canadians who served during World War II.[12][13]


Attraction sites[edit]


  • 1994: A Tribute to the Origin Country of the Tulip - Turkey
  • 1995: The Friendship That Flowered - 50th anniversary of the Liberation of the Netherlands
  • 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
  • 2008: Where Ideas Bloom
  • 2009: The Tulip Route
  • 2010: "Liberation" - The 65th anniversary of the liberation of Europe
  • 2011: "Kaleidoscope" - A celebration of Spring awakening through colour, culture and community
  • 2012: The Festival celebrates its 60th anniversary with “60 years of Tulip Friendship”.
  • 2013: “Cirque de Liberation”
  • 2014: “Floral Extravaganza”
  • 2015: “Tulip Liberation” celebrates the 70th Anniversary of the Liberation of Holland through colour, culture and community!
  • 2016: "Urban Tulip" - at Aberdeen Pavilion
  • 2017: “One Tulip – One Canada” The Festival's 65th edition takes place during Canada's 150th
  • 2018: "A World of Tulips"
  • 2019: Canadian Tulip Festival; ReRooted
  • 2020: Canadian Tulip Festival; Liberation75 (Held Online during CoVid19)
  • 2021: Canadian Tulip Festival; Liberation 75+1 and Rembrandt & Dutch Masters

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Tulip Times" (PDF). p. 4. Archived from the original (PDF) on 1 June 2010. Retrieved 12 October 2010.
  2. ^ "Showcasing Canada's Capital Region" (Press release). Canadian Tulip Festival. 2007. Archived from the original on 14 May 2007. Retrieved 18 May 2007.
  3. ^ NCC
  4. ^ Ministerie van Buitenlandse Zaken (Ministry of Foreign Affairs) (12 May 2023). "Thank You Toronto Tulip Day 2023 - Event - Netherlandsandyou.nl". www.netherlandsandyou.nl. Retrieved 5 August 2023.
  5. ^ Heritage, Canadian (27 September 2017). "Tulips in Canada's capital". www.canada.ca. Retrieved 5 August 2023.
  6. ^ "About the Festival". Canadian Tulip Festival. Retrieved 5 August 2023.
  7. ^ a b c "Crown princess Juliana in 1945 said thanks with loads of tulips". The Windmill news articles. goDutch. 1995. Retrieved 24 May 2012.
  8. ^ "Proclamation". Canada Gazette. 26 December 1942. Retrieved 7 December 2022.
  9. ^ "1943: Netherlands' Princess Margriet born in Ottawa - CBC Archives". CBC Archives. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. 23 January 1992. Retrieved 18 June 2017.
  10. ^ [1] Archived March 1, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ a b "Canadian Tulip Festival: Back in bloom". Canadian Business. 16 April 2008. Retrieved 3 April 2023.
  12. ^ ltgov-admin (8 May 2020). "75 Years of Freedom: Remembering the Liberation of the Netherlands". Government House. Retrieved 5 August 2023.
  13. ^ International, Radio Canada (31 October 2019). "Bright orange tulips to mark 75th anniversary of Canada's liberation of Holland". RCI | English. Retrieved 5 August 2023.

External links[edit]