The 2016 Canadian Tulip Festival: Lesson learned for a more culturally diverse nation

Tulip Festival – Alberdeen Pavillon – Lansdowne Park – Ottawa

This Monday has marked the last day of the Canadian Tulip Festival in the city of Ottawa, which was held from May 12th to 23rd 2016 to wrap up with a bright note on Victoria Day. This is a rare opportunity to reflect on the Tulip legacy and government public events in Canada. The  multicultural character of this festival can serve as example for government endeavours.

As a fun, family day-out, and nature celebration event, the Tulip Festival usually gathers people from across the country and internationally. And this year has been no exception.

This blog focus on the diversity of the festival in terms of music, arts, gastronomy, and gathering. However, let’s start with some history.

A friendship legacy

The Princess Tulip Sculpture – Canadian Tulip Festival 2016 – Alberdeen Pavillon – Lansdowne Park – Ottawa

The Tulip Festival has been in the Canadian landscape for more than 60 years now. What started as a donation of flowers quickly became an integrant part of the country’s national celebrations. In fact, Canada offered political asylum to the royal family of the Netherlands who had to flee their country because of the Nazi Invasion in May 1940.

While in Canada, a member of the royal family, “Princess Juliana, gave birth to daughter Princess Margriet at the Ottawa Civic Hospital, which was temporarily declared extraterritorial by the Government of Canada, to ensure the princess would hold exclusively Dutch, rather than dual nationality“. As a way to secure Princess Margriet’s rights to claim the throne when the time comes. – the Canadian Tulip Festival

As a thank you gesture Princess Juliana offered Canada among other gifts an initial 100 000 Tulip bulbs and more later to be planted at the Ottawa Civic Hospital. This friendship legacy has led to what is known today as the Canadian Tulip Festival on a suggestion of world-renowned photographer Malak Karsh. For more interesting facts about the history of the Tulip Festival, visit The Tulip Legacy Story at the Canadian Tulip Festival website.

A gathering of diversity

Tulips at Major’s Hill Park, Ottawa

I will always remember my first trip to the Tulip Festival back in 2006 while I was living in Montreal. I had a blast  and fell in love with the city of Ottawa and now 10 years later I have been an Ottawan for over three years.

This year, even as a resident of Ottawa, I had as much fun at the festival. Just like previous years, stunning flowers, varied gastronomy, beautiful artistic events, fun kid activities, and nice music were at the party.

Once again, it was a display of diversity, particularly amongst visitors. As a person of colour living in Canada, festivals are one of my favorite things. It’s usually a common ground between people of different skin colour, background, and ethnicity. This is where you get to see different people mingle together as everybody is looking for a chance to have fun outdoor, taste different food, listen to music, dance, take selfies, and create memories.

Alberdeen Pavillon
Alberdeen Pavillon – Lansdowne Park – Ottawa

Although there is room for improvement in terms of diversity of organisation, it’s important to recognize there has been an important effort in this area. A good example is the diversity of different gastronomy, culture, and music present at the Alberdeen Pavillon at Landsdowne Park.

At the indoor market you could taste food from almost all over the world, buy African, Asian, or European wears or listen to a multitude of different languages. The beauty of this diversity is one of the things that makes Canada a great country. However, cultural diversity should go deeper than arts and festival and affect all social and government spheres.

Cultural Diversity Display 

A hope for a more culturally diverse future

For next year and all the subsequent Tulip festivals and national events in general (Canada Day is just out of the corner), I hope for an event that will go beyond a mere friendship between Canada and Netherlands/ United Kingdom. I hope for an event that will reflect the diversity of the nation, an event that will truly portray the multiculturalism that has been at the dawn of the nation.

Asian tourists visiting Ottawa for the Tulip Festivals

Multiculturalism and diversity are keys for economic growth and are essential to compete in a globalized world as different people bring different flavours, different ways to do thing, different ways to innovate.

My last hope is that  the multicultural effort showcased this year serve not only as model for subsequent social events but become the norm in Canadian policy and government endeavours. It’s important that Ottawa as the Nation’s Capital set the example for the rest of the country.

Here’s to more diverse and multicultural efforts in Canada!

Tulips Photo Gallery

Published by

Katia Ulysse Saint Vil

Mom, Political Communication professional, blogger, I am nonetheless just someone who likes to think, dig, analyze things, and share her findings with the world. I am also a true believer in the "better-world" philosophy, so I am trying to do my part towards this end.

4 thoughts on “The 2016 Canadian Tulip Festival: Lesson learned for a more culturally diverse nation

  1. Wow, that baby princess was exempted from the jurisdiction of local law?

    I enjoyed this article…the tulips are so pretty! It seems to be the world’s
    largest tulip festival, showcasing over one million tulips….wow!!!

    I hope to visit this beautiful festival one day now that I am aware of it…
    there are many tulip festivals in The U.S, in several states,
    but most focus on the flowers and local cuisines..

    The Albany Tulip Festival
    is celebrated yearly on Mother’s Day Weekend.

    Growing up in New York’s melting pot of cultural diversity,
    on any day or time, one can choose to sample from a wide variety
    of cuisine, arts, music on just 1 city block.

    The Tulip Festival appears to be on a grander scale..

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Sara, Thanks for your comment! You’re right the Tulip Festival is a big deal in Ottawa and Canada in general. It’s almost as huge and beautiful as Canada Day…

    I didn’t know that tulips were also celebrated across the US. Thanks for sharing. Sounds like great mix of pleasure and cultural diversity, like must-no-be-missed events. This is going right to my wish list.


  3. It was great reading about the Dutch-Canadian ties that led to this phenomenal, floral festival of friendship. Festivals celebrating diversity in cities are a wonderful way to get a glimpse into different cultures and explore a part of the world that’s unfamiliar. While bolstering diversity is an ongoing need, cultural events contribute to the economic vitality of cities because they attract residents and tourists who are likely to spend money at booths and local businesses.

    By the way, your photos for this post are amazing! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Mimi L,
      Thanks for your comment. I very much appreciate the economic dimension you pointed out, which is indeed an important part of events like the Tulip Festival. You’re right it’s good for the community where the event is taking place. I will definitely take into account your insight on the marriage between cultural diversity needs and economic spin-offs in later articles.


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