What if you threw a party and nobody was allowed to come due to an international pandemic? You still throw the party but as a virtual experience says the Canadian Tulip Festival organizer. The irony that attendees must ‘Stay Home’ is not lost on an event that honours Canadians who were told to go to war and who are honoured annually for their role in liberating the Netherlands and Europe.
“We knew from very early on in February that the Canadian Tulip Festival wouldn’t happen,” says Jo Riding, General Manager, Canadian Tulip Festival. “Our international tours weren’t booking and that represents 30 to 40 per cent of our visitors.”
A decision was made to make the Canadian Tulip Festival, which runs from May 8 to 18, a virtual experience. Social distancing, with thousands of visitors trying to get a close look at the blooms, is a challenge.
“Our message to everyone is that we will bring the tulips to you, please do not travel to see them,” she says. “We’ll bring tulips to you via a Facebook check-in, Tulip TV, aerial photos and 360-degree tours.”
Songs of liberation will also be released on YouTube daily and will provide another reason for families to join together (online) in learning about the history behind the flowers.
Virtual attendees can also enjoy interacting with the festival by getting into the spirit of the 75th anniversary by recreating one of four famous Homecoming images from WWII. People who share and tag their photo are eligible to win a VIP, All-Access-3-Day weekend at the 2021 Canadian Tulip Festival.
Since 1953, the Canadian Tulip Festival has been a popular international event in Ottawa. Thousands travel from around the world to join in the celebration marking the historic gift of tulips, as a symbol of international friendship, from the Dutch to Canadians following the Second World War. And there’s even a royal connection to Ottawa as well, with Dutch Princess Margriet being the only royal family member born in Canada.
One mission that has been completed is the goal of planting 1.1million Liberation 75 tulips. The bright orange bulbs were selected due to the royal orange colour and the fact the fluted petals grow in the shape of a crown. People could buy the bulbs last fall for planting.
“We selected this number to honour the 1.1 million Canadians who served during the Second World War,” says Jo. For every sale of the bag of tulips, $1 was earmarked for the Royal Canadian Legion. Tulip growers who planted the bulbs last fall for this spring’s growing season also received a chance to win two round-trip tickets to Amsterdam from anywhere in Canada that KLM flies plus $2,000 cash. Extra chances to win are also available by uploading images of the orange bulbs on Facebook or Instagram using hashtag #PlantingLib75.
“The orange was also a nod to Dutch royalty as we had an anticipated royal visit by Princess Margriet of the Netherlands,” says Jo.
While many events can be made available in a virtual setting, not being able to accommodate physical visitors has a significant impact on the bottom line of the non-profit, charitable foundation.
“Many people don’t realize that we are a charity,” says Jo. The event has sponsorship in addition to government funding from Heritage Canada, Celebrate Ontario, Veterans Affairs and the City of Ottawa. The festival organizers, however, will not see the income generated from in-the-park revenue and some sponsorship.
“We’ve had to pivot to try to make up those funds with on-line sales,” says Jo, adding that they’ve seen some great examples of good citizenship where sponsors have adjusted their contribution to the cause.
“The Tulip Team at ReMax had sponsored the tulip pavilion where handcrafted artisans sell tulip-themed merchandise,” says Jo. “But we had to cancel the pavilion and instead offer it on-line and ReMax continued to support it in their sponsorship role.”
This will enable artisans to continue to sell their handcrafted wares as well. Some events may be reconfigured for next year such as the Vintage Victory Parade, which was to celebrate the Liberation of the Netherlands, and now may be a celebration of freedom in 2021. An aerial fly-by is also cancelled.
“Stay home, stay safe and healthy and help save lives,” says Jo. “Let us bring the tulips to you.”
Information on the 2020 Canadian Tulip Festival activities and programming can be found in the video below or at www.Tulipfestival.ca. Learn more about what to expect this year, by visiting the TulipTV YouTube channel.