Canadian Tulip Festival

The Canadian Tulip Festival (French: Festival Canadien des Tulipes; Dutch: Canadees Festival van de Tulp) is a tulip festival, held annually in 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, and the largest display of tulips is found in Commissioners Park on the shores of Dow's Lake, and along the Rideau Canal with 300,000 tulips planted there alone.[3] Millions of tulips set the stage for a celebration of authentic art, cultural, historic, culinary and family tulip experiences at various official venues across the capital.

Canadian Tulip Festival
GenreHorticultural Arts & Culture
Dates2 weeks leading through Victoria Day
Location(s)National Capital Region (Canada)
Years active1953present


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 in the Second World War. 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.[4][5] 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

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.[6] 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 Celebridée: 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 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!
2017 “One Tulip – One Canada” The Festival's 65th edition takes place during Canada's 150th.
2018 "A World of Tulips"

Official Sites

  • Lansdowne Park – The Art & Culture Tulip Experience
  • Commissioners Park – Dow's Lake - The Garden Tulip Experience;
  • ByWard Market – The Urban Tulip Experience;
  • Garden Promenade – The Community Tulip Experience
  • Zibi Gatineau - The Culinary Tulip Experience

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 19411943, several years before the Royal Family followed suit.[7]

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.[7]

Official Festival Sites

Commissioner's Park - Dow's Lake

Commissioner's 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 Region some 300,000 can be found planted along a 1 km section of the lakeshore. Commissioners Park also features buskers and musicians, and artists demonstrating their skills.

Garden Promenade - The Community Tulip Experience

The Garden Promenade celebrates Ottawa's garden culture with over 70 experiences through 40 of the region's most beautiful must-visit gardens. Join us during the Canadian Tulip Festival and delight in a self-guided or escorted showcase of Ottawa's public gardens exploding with millions of tulips in bloom and many tulip centric special activities planned such as Yoga in the Tulips on Parliament Hill and in Major's Hill Park.

Other Garden Promenade sites

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

Lansdowne Park Tulip Gallery – The Art & Culture Tulip Experience

Aberdeen Pavilion and the Great Lawn will be brimming with tulip art and floral exhibits, artistic installations, interactive family programming and entertainment. Varying international exhibits have been featured during many years of the festival's history. International representation is limited to official members of the festivals tulip friendship network comprising like-minded nations who celebrate and revere the tulip as an international symbol of friendship and peace. Many of these countries stage large-scale tulip festivals of their own.

Special features at Lansdowne Park include:

  • Thousands of potted tulips and floral installations
  • International pavilions offering food, artworks and entertainment sponsored by friendship country embassies
  • Spectacular garden of 5-foot hand painted tulips
  • Art, Floral and gardening demos, seminars and workshops
  • Children's Tulip Garden Installation (thousands of wooden tulips hand painted by local elementary school children)
  • Vintage Ford Model A Autombile Display and Picnic
  • Interactive Family Fun Zone and Pavilion
  • Friendship Stage
  • Homage To Malak Photography Exhibit
  • Signatures Canadian Handmade Market
  • Tulip Bouquet Exhibit
  • Tulip Art Gallery & Boutique
  • Victory Encampment- Vintage Military Displays

ByWard Market: The Urban Tulip Experience

Each year, the Canadian artists invited to create the annual festival campaign imagery brings tulip art to this city's central marketplace with massive urban art installations, interactive workshops and artist meet & greet opportunities. Animation throughout the streets and tulip-centric merchant promotions complement the experience.

See also


  1. "Tulip Times" (PDF). p. 4. Archived from the original (PDF) on June 1, 2010. Retrieved October 12, 2010.
  2. "Showcasing Canada's Capital Region" (Press release). Canadian Tulip Festival. 2007. Retrieved 2007-05-18.
  3. NCC
  4. "Proclamation". Canada Gazette. 26 December 1942. Retrieved 18 June 2017.
  5. "1943: Netherlands' Princess Margriet born in Ottawa - CBC Archives". CBC Archives. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. 23 January 1992. Retrieved 18 June 2017.
  6. Archived March 1, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  7. "Crown princess Juliana in 1945 said thanks with loads of tulips". The Windmill news articles. goDutch. 1943-01-19. Retrieved 2012-05-24.
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