This year, Tulipfest will feature more than just pretty flowers as organizers of the Canadian Tulip Festival double the number of sites and expand entertainment offerings.

“We’ve expanded this year," said festival spokesman Connor McGuire. “We’ve gone from two locations to four, which is huge. It’s the only festival in Ottawa that has that many sites.

“We wanted to get a larger community presence, to have it more integrated into the city of Ottawa,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what part of town you’re in — you’re going to be able to experience some part of the tulip festival.”

 

Organizers are looking forward to a successful first weekend as the festival kicks off Friday. This year, the tulips are well timed, McGuire said.

“Our festival is completely contingent on the weather. In past years, they haven't bloomed or bloomed too early. This year, it’s right on the money.”

An estimated 600,000 people — up from 500,000 in 2008 —are expected to visit the four sites over 18 days, said Julian Armour, executive director of the Canadian Tulip Festival.

While 40 per cent of visitors to the Canadian Tulip Festival are from out of town, the festival draws guests from all over the world, Armour said.

Although the three million tulips planted in the nation's capital will always be a main attraction for the festival, people are looking for more content, said Armour.

“The tulip festival is about getting people out of the house after a long winter and to concerts and performances,” he said.

This year, events include an expanded children’s program, which includes the Carnivale Lune Bleue circus school and events for the family, including performances by China’s Nanjing Acrobatic Troupe in the intimate setting of the mirror tent.

Big-name speakers include Bob Geldof, Rick Mercer, Margaret Atwood and Sister Helen Prejean.