Canadian Tulip Festival

Commissioners Park (Ottawa) Ottawa Tulip
Canadian Tulip Festival
Tulip festival in Ottawa - 2019 (47925742658).jpg
GenreHorticultural Arts & Culture
Dates2 weeks leading through Victoria Day
Location(s)National Capital Region (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 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]


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

Princess Margriet returns to Ottawa to attend 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.[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.

1994–2006: World Friendship

For a dozen years, the Canadian Tulip Festival celebrated countries all across the world, who have also adopted the Tulip as a Symbol of International Friendship. From Turkey, the originating country of the tulip,

2007: Reorganisation & Celebridée

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. 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 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.

2019: Present: Re-Rooted

In 2019, the festival once again changed leadership and management, into the hands of a younger board and management team. The goal of this most recent team is to Re-Root the festival is its history and horticulture. The festival has been returned to a single-site at Commissioners Park, with a Veterans Day Ceremony at Beechwood National Military Cemetery. In 2020, the planned celebrations for the 75th Anniversary of the Liberation of the Netherlands had to pivot to a Virtual Experience, due to the COVID-19 global pandemic. The Festival once again put forth a stunning display of horticulture including the use of aerial photography and 360-degree image capture of hundreds of breeds of tulips.

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!
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

Official Sites

Attraction 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.[7]

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]

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

Official Festival Site

Commissioner's Park - Dow's Lake

Tulips at Dows Lake in 2014

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 1.2 km section of the lakeshore.

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. Archived from the original on 2007-05-14. 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. ^ [1] Archived March 1, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ a b "Crown princess Juliana in 1945 said thanks with loads of tulips". The Windmill news articles. goDutch. 1943-01-19. Retrieved 2012-05-24.