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Best of the Fests: The Canadian Tulip Festival and More


The Canadian Tulip Festival celebrates Canada's friendship with the Netherlands. On from May 8 to 18. (Photo: Sarah Fischer)

The Canadian Tulip Festival celebrates Canada’s friendship with the Netherlands. On from May 8 to 18. (Photo: Sarah Fischer)

MAY 8 TO 18 Would you believe it if we told you the Canadian Tulip Festival has its roots in World War II? It’s true: when war broke out in 1939, the Netherlands proclaimed itself neutral, refusing to take part or pick sides in the conflict. Despite this, the German army invaded in 1940, and the Dutch royal family was whisked out of the country to be sheltered in safer harbours. Queen Wilhelmina remained in the United Kingdom to rule from afar, while her eldest daughter, Princess Juliana, continued on to Canada with her family — and it was in Ottawa that she gave birth to her daughter, Princess Margriet, in 1943. To ensure that the princess retained exclusively Dutch citizenship — and, thus, her place in the line of succession to the Dutch throne — the Canadian government declared her room at the Ottawa Civic Hospital temporarily extraterritorial.

It was the beginning of a friendship between the Netherlands and Canada that continues to this day. Shortly after the end of the war, Princess Juliana sent Canadians 100,000 tulip bulbs in thanks for their hospitality, and continued to send a gift of bulbs on an annual basis.

Canadians were captivated by the thousands of colourful blooms, and so the festival has endured for more than half a century. The tulips can be seen at three major locations throughout Ottawa: Dows Lake, Major’s Hill Park, and the Olympic Garden at Lansdowne Park. They can also be seen at several sites across the river in Gatineau. No car? Don’t worry — the Tulip Shuttle transports visitors between the main sites within the city.

This year, the festival marks its 70th anniversary with a special flower-inspired fireworks show over Dows Lake on May 8,9, 15, and 16. Live music, cultural presentations, buskers, and assorted family-friendly activities round out the experience.

Visit tulipfestival.ca for more information.

Upcoming Festivals:

MAY 29 TO 31 
Enjoy beers from more than 35 Quebec-based microbreweries — plus offerings from several Ontario breweries — at the fifth annual edition of Festibière in Jacques-Cartier Park. Star-studded musical programming, delectable food by local vendors, and activities for the whole family (think face painting, rock climbing, and an inflatable kids’ zone) mean there’s something for everyone. festibiere.ca

Magnetic North
JUNE 4 TO 13 Magnetic North travels to other Canadian cities every second year to bring thought-provoking performances to the rest of the nation. Now back in Ottawa, this year’s lineup includes a solo show by Kids in the Hall member Bruce McCulloch that blends comedy, music, and autobiographical elements. Other highlights include a plan chronicling the 18,000-year history of an Anishinaabeg First Nations family, and a humorous take on new-age medicine that’s presented as an interactive yoga class. magneticnorthfestival.ca

Edmonton's Mercury Opera performs the classic La Fiamma at Magnetic North. (Photo: Mercury Opera)

Edmonton’s Mercury Opera performs the classic La Fiamma at Magnetic North. (Photo: Mercury Opera)

Canada Dance Festival
JUNE 6 TO 13 
This year, the festival challenges our ideas of what dance can be, bringing performances by the Toronto Dance Theatre and Byron Chief Moon, as well as the Ottawa premiere of Porch View Dances. canadadance.ca

JUNE 13 AND 14 
Richmond Road, the strip of land that’s home to trendy Westboro village, closes down for two days in this celebration of the neighbourhood’s arts community. Two Ontario folk singer-songwriters headline the festival: Sarah Harmer takes the stage on June 13 in a rare performance, while Lynn Miles closes the festival on June 14. Other attractions include buskers, food vendors, shopping, and a kids’ zone. The best part: admission is free! westfest.ca

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