With hundreds of tulips already in bloom in Ottawa and Gatineau, the Canadian Tulip Festival will make it abundantly clear that it’s tulip time in the nation’s capital.
Starting Friday and running through May 24, the festival, which is estimated to attract over 600,000 visitors, will have a special meaning this year as it celebrates the centennial of the Canadian Navy and the 65th anniversary of the liberation of the Netherlands by the Canadian troops, said festival spokesperson Kim Berry.
To mark the occasion, the festival is holding its first-ever liberation street party on Sparks Street Friday to recreate the spontaneous party that broke out when the news of the end of World War II first hit the streets on May 7, 1945.
Berry said an estimated 10,000 people will attend the free, all-day party, which runs from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. and will feature a live band, deejays, swing dancing, buskers and the Apex Jazz Band leading a parade of 1940s-era costumes and vintage cars and jeeps down Sparks Street.
The festival itself, held at three main sites, including Major’s Hill Park, Commissioner’s Park and Dow’s Lake and along the Rideau Canal, will see the return of the Mirror Tent.
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Programming includes a vintage wine auction and performances by the Liberation Swing Band and European singer Waylon, who makes his Canadian debut here on May 15.
Held at Commissioners Park and Major’s Hill Park, the National Capital Commission’s Tulip Legacy Exhibit recounts the history of the Dutch Royal family’s refuge in Canada during the Second World War and the contribution of Canadian troops in the liberation of the Netherlands in 1944-45, while Major’s Hill Park will also play host to the International Friendship Stage and the International Pavilion.
The stars of the festival, of course, are the one to two million tulips, which have or will come up over the next few weeks.
“There are some beautiful flowers right now,” said Berry. “We’re encouraging people to come out right now to get the full effect of it.”
Still, there’s more to come.
“There are early, mid and late-season flowers,” Berry said.
Ontario Tourism estimates that the festival will have a $100-million impact for Ottawa.