British Columbia

Tulip festival moving to Okanagan from Abbotsford after founder relocates

The colourful tourist attraction is moving after the land it was held on was sold. The Armstrong Chamber of Commerce says it welcomes the festival's relocation to the Okanagan.

Colourful festival ran from 2016 to 2019 but was paused in 2020 due to COVID-19

An aerial view of the Abbotsford Tulip Festival at sunrise. (Heliwood Media/Facebook)

The Bloom Abbotsford Tulip Festival is saying goodbye to the Fraser Valley and hello to the North Okanagan.

Founder Alexis Szarek said in a news release on Monday that the land where the festival had been held for four consecutive years was sold to new owners while she and her family had moved to Armstrong. 

"It's a bittersweet feeling to say goodbye to the incredible community that supported our vision for the last few years but we're hopeful for the future of the event in our new community," said Szarek in the statement.

Born Warmerdam, Szarek is a Dutch Canadian whose grandfather and great-grandfather were both tulip farmers in the Netherlands. She grew up watching her father operate a 60-acre tulip farm in Abbotsford.

Alexis Szarek, the founder of the Bloom Tulip Festival, says the relocation to the North Okanagan is primarily a family decision. (Lauren Mccullough/CBC)

Szarek says the relocation to the B.C. Interior is primarily a family decision.

"[My] husband and I are a young couple. We have one daughter and our family's growing," Szarek told Chris Walker, the host of CBC's Daybreak South. "We're looking for a bit of a slower pace of life." 

From 2016 to 2019 the event attracted 100,000 visitors each year who came to witness the hundreds of thousands of tulips in bloom.

The Bloom Abbotsford Tulip Festival was cancelled in 2020 due to COVID-19.

The Bloom Tulip Festival isn't happening this spring because founder Alexis Szarek hasn't done any planting in October due to the uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. (Abbotsford Tulip Festival/Facebook)

Szarek says the event isn't happening this year either because she didn't plant the tulips in October in order for them to bloom from April to May. 

"In October, there was still too much uncertainty," she said. 

Szarek hopes to run a sunflower festival this summer and the tulip festival in the spring of 2022, but says these all depend on how the pandemic goes.

"Unless it's safe to do so, we won't be opening," she said.

Despite no timeline when the festival will be up and running in the new location, Patti Noonan, the executive director of the Armstrong Spallumcheen Chamber of Commerce, welcomes Szarek's decision.

"We are over the moon. I couldn't be more excited," Noonan said. "It's such a good fit for our [farming] community."

Tap the link below to hear Alexis Szarek and Patti Noonan on Daybreak South:

Festival founder Alexis Szarek speaks to Chris Walker about her decision. 7:31

With files from Daybreak South

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