Canadian Tulip Festival returns to Ottawa in May

With the arrival of spring comes the Canadian Tulip Festival, arguably the largest of its kind in the world. The 2014 instalment was one of the most successful to date, and this year is expected to be even bigger and better.

Held annually in Ottawa, the festival was officially established in 1953 by the Ottawa Board of Trade. However, its roots extend back to World War II. After the Netherlands were invaded by the Nazis, the Dutch royal family fled the country and arrived in Ottawa by way of Halifax. Princess Juliana and her children took refuge in Stornoway, and Ottawa proved to be a hospitable and friendly shelter.

In 1948, when it was safe to return to the Netherlands again, the princess presented an array of gifts to the residents of Canada as a show of gratitude. One of these gifts was a collection of 100,000 tulip bulbs, which were planted on the Ottawa Civic Hospital grounds. The princess continued to send 100,000 bulbs to Canada every year, even after she became queen, until losing her seat in the royal house to Queen Beatrix. The magnificent floral display grew lusher each year, and the city began celebrating the blooms and arrival of spring with the annual Canadian Tulip Festival.

The Canadian Tulip Festival will be held from May 8-18, 2015 at various sites throughout Ottawa. More than 600,000 people are expected to attend this year to view over 250 varieties of tulips spread out among the National Capital Region. Commissioners Park will hold the highest concentration of these perennials, displaying some 300,000 blooms. Other festival features include floral-themed fireworks (May 8-9 and 15-16 over Dows Lake), live musical performances and World War II memorabilia displays.

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