Tulip Festival selling off giant flower sculptures to make up funding shortfall

The Canadian Tulip Festival is selling giant sculptures of its famous flowers in a bid to make up for recent provincial funding cuts.

A portion of the slashed funds will be restored, province said Friday

Grant Hooker, chair of the Canadian Tulip Festival, said the organization needs to fundraise to make up for losses from Ontario's cuts to festival funding. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

The Canadian Tulip Festival is selling giant sculptures of its eponymous buds in a bid to make up for recent provincial funding cuts.

The festival has been painting and displaying the fibre glass and plaster sculptures since 2002. About 150 of them will be for sale, some of which might need a little sanding and a new paint job.

"We're looking for people to adopt them, refurbish them, to display them at their homes and businesses," said Grant Hooker, chair of the Canadian Tulip Festival.

"These giants tulips are a symbol of the festival. The tulip, of course, partially because of the festival, is a symbol of Ottawa."

Hooker said fundraising became even more important after the Ontario government did not grant organizers any money from the Celebrate Ontario program in its initial funding round — in time for this year's festival.

The Ottawa Tulip Festival is having a clearance sale of 150 of its giant fiberglass and plaster tulips. (Ottawa Tulip Festival/Facebook)

He said organizers felt "puzzled" and "devastated" when they didn't receive the $100,000 grant, which the festival received over the previous five years.

In a statement to CBC News late Friday night, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport said that it now plans to support the Canadian Tulip Festival with $69,000 to "showcase the beauty of our nation's capital."

Hooker found out about the news Saturday morning from CBC. 

He told CBC Radio's In Town and Out that he is very pleased to hear about the province's support, and added that the festival remains in debt.

The festival is a non-profit charity that's in charge of programming, while the National Capital Commission is responsible for planting of tulips on its grounds, he said.

"Festivals rely on a variety of sources of income," he said. "Fundraising is something that we do regularly … the five-foot tulips are weathered tulips, they need adoption and refurbishing."

The restructuring of Celebrate Ontario affected several popular Ottawa festivals leading to reduced programming or a funding shortfall. 

Since the initial funding cuts, Nepean MPP Lisa MacLeod has taken over as minister of tourism, culture and sport.

The statement from her office on Friday said the response to Celebrate Ontario this year was "tremendous" and the government is prioritizing applications that demonstrate a clear return on investment.

The minister's office said some funding is being distributed to applicants who were not successful earlier this year.

The Ottawa Tulip Festival estimates it attracted about 700,000 visitors this year.

Next Saturday, the festival will be selling its tulip sculptures starting at $199. The stylized tulips are about 1.5 metres tall and less than a metre wide at the base. 

The giant tulips will be on sale at a lot just south of Highway 417, near the intersection of Boundary and Indcum roads.


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