Tulip festival a big draw in Ottawa this year


Despite late blooming flowers and a lightning strike, organizers say this year’s Canadian Tulip Festival in Ottawa was a success.


The National Capital Commission estimated some 700,000 people visited during the 11-day festival. There were 70,000 visitors on Mother’s Day alone, and 100,000 this past Saturday.

The event had the best attendance in a decade, according to Jo Riding, the Ottawa festival’s general manager.

Which is not to say there wasn’t drama this year.

10-month-old Vivian Spurrell of Ottawa was among those visiting the Canadian Tulip Festival this year. (Submitted by Gerard Smith)

Mother Nature throws curveballs

On Sunday at around 5 p.m. a storm moved in, resulting in a lightning strike in Dow’s Lake, right beside Commissioner’s Park where the festival was centred.

The electrical storm resulted in a 20 minute interruption in the festival program as tourists and locals had be coaxed out from under trees and given shelter in festival pavilions.

The festival’s fireworks were also moved up 45 minutes because the forecast called for more thunderstorms.

Tulips at Ottawa’s Major’s Hill Park. (Ian Black/CBC)

And while some festivals past have struggled with premature blooming of the star attraction, this year was different.

Many tulip buds hadn’t opened when the festival started on May 10, but on the other hand, there were many blooms in flower at the end, on May 20, and locals will be able to enjoy tulips late into May.

The NCC say it is adjusting its ratio of early bloomers versus mid-to-late bloomers, to counteract the effects of climate change, and reduce the number of spent flowers mid-festival.

But the cool, rainy spring delayed the planned early flowering by a week.