Despite showers, a busy weekend rounded off one of the most successful Canadian Tulip Festivals ever.
At the festival’s close yesterday, thousands of people packed the Mirror Tent at Major’s Hill Park to take in two Abbamania concerts, checked out the tulips at Commissioner’s Park and wandered through the International Pavilion, which featured Russia Day.
Although final numbers aren’t in, organizers estimated that hundreds of thousands of people attended over 18 days, said festival spokesman Doug Little.
“Just Saturday at the International Pavilion, we had 16,500 people and on Sunday, with the rain holding off, we had 26,800 people,” he said. “And the crowds at Commissioner’s Park were just massive.”
A 2003 Ottawa Tourism study pegged the local economic impact of the festival at $40 million. With another survey year scheduled in 2009, and with hotels declaring themselves packed in 2008, Little said, “I’m convinced it’s going to be double that.”
The festival that had its seed in an annual gift of tulip bulbs by the Netherlands to the city of Ottawa for its kindness in sheltering the Dutch royal family in wartime has grown truly international.
Ida Patricia de Sa, a visitor from Brazil, in particular enjoyed the International Pavilion. “It’s interesting to see all the countries in the same place,” she said.
Montreal’s Dave Dumouchel admitted that he didn’t know the festival was on until he wandered in to Major’s Hill Park.
“It’s pretty cool,” he said, adding that he’d heard there were some black tulips before wandering off to find them.
The weather might have arrested an even larger finale to the festival, Little admitted.
“The threatening weather we had this weekend may have stopped even more people from coming out,” he said. “But we had a tremendous run with the International Pavilion and the tulips and the Mirror Tent.
Little said organizers hope to bring the venue back for 2009.