Ottawa’s festival season kicked off this weekend with the Canadian Tulip Festival. Of course, the weather was more miserable than it’s been since February with just barely above freezing temperatures, driving rain and high winds.
But a lot of people had marked off their calendars to attend the tulip festival this weekend and by golly were going to show up despite the weather. Two of those people were my out-of-town blogger guests, Jazz from Haphazard Life and Violetsky from the blog of the same name. (Alison from Party of 3 only showed up for the food & beverage portions of the weekend).
So Saturday morning after a jolly breakfast with a bunch of Ottawa bloggers, we trudged off to Dow’s Lake to look at the freakin’ tulips. In the rain. And cold.
For those who’ve never heard of the Canadian Tulip Festival, this is supposed to be the largest tulip festival in the world. We have all these tulips because Ottawa sheltered the Dutch Princess Juliana and her kids during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands during WWII. One of her kids, Princess Margriet, was actually born in Ottawa in 1943. So, in gratitude the Dutch send a whole whack of tulips to Ottawa every year.
Back in 1953, photographer Malak Karsh (brother of Yousuf) decided it might be a fun idea to organize an entire festival around these hundreds of thousands of tulip bulbs that kept arriving. And for a long time the festival was a huge deal. There were big-name outdoor concerts. Liberace opened the festival in 1972. A 12-year-old Alanis Morissette did her first public performance at the festival in 1987. The career of the Trews took off after they opened for Big Sugar at the 2003 festival.
Anyway, around 2006, it seems The City decided all this fun and frivolity was costing the city too much money, so they shut down the whole music and interesting-stuff part of the festival.
Therefore, on this, the 65th anniversary of the festival, the busloads of tourists who drove in on the weekend just got to see what was left of the tulips, since most of them had already bloomed and died due to the early spring we had. There was a sad little tent called “Tulip Art Gallery and Gift Shop” which featured a few paintings of tulips, umbrellas with plastic tulips tied on top, t-shirts with tulips and a handful of other touristy tulip-related stuff.
Outside, there were also a couple of other stands that served food products and a fairly substantial row of outhouses.
Now, I know Ottawa can’t do anything about the fact that the weather was good for a long time and made most of the tulips sprout early and then die off just in time for the festival. And Ottawa can’t do anything about the weather being really, really crappy the weekend that the festival opens. HOWEVER, I think they could have anticipated the predictably unpredictable verieties of Ottawa spring weather and maybe made a bit more of the whole tulip experience.
Would it have killed them to have some type of shelter where people could sit and enjoy a refreshment and/or some entertainment – maybe something educational or edifying? A film maybe? Or, since this is an annual event, could they not have a permanent interpretation centre-type building all about the significance of the festival? Some interactive activities perhaps? Anything?
I haven’t lived here very long, so I don’t know what’s really worth going to or worth doing in the city and I don’t know where anything is and I get lost in Ottawa really easily, so I was a really lousy tour guide for the guests.
So, off we went to the Byward Market (which is always sort of festive) and laughed at the Obama cutouts and Obama cookies and then asked one of the Ottawa Ambassadors what they would recommend we do for the rest of the rainy afternoon. The Ottawa Ambassador kind of shrugged and said, “Um… I don’t know…like…the Tulip Festival? Or Parliament Hill or the museums? That’s really all there’s to do here.”
So, we had a late lunch, got a $30 parking ticket and went back to my place.
HOWEVER, despite Ottawa’s and/or my lameness and despite the really, really crappy weather, I had a splendid time with my guests and since neither of them snuck off in the night to go home, I’m assuming they were okay with everything. I’m sure they’ll be blogging about the weekend, too, so I’ll find out then.