It's OK to stop and smell the flowers, say tulip festival organizers

While last year’s Canadian Tulip Festival encouraged Ottawans to admire the flowers virtually, organizers say people can enjoy them online or in-person in 2021 — as long as people use common sense.

Photographs welcome this year but just don’t crowd, says Canadian Tulip Festival rep

Tulip festival goes virtual for second year in a row

3 years ago
Duration 0:52
Featured VideoThe Canadian Tulip Festival, which runs from May 14 to May 24, will offer virtual experiences as well as in-person viewing this year, though organizers are asking fans not to form crowds.

While last year's Canadian Tulip Festival encouraged Ottawans to admire the flowers virtually, people can enjoy them online or in-person in 2021 — as long as they use common sense. 

"This is our second virtual year," said Jo Riding, executive director of the festival. "But the big difference is, instead of two months to plan, we've had a whole year."

The tulip festival — which celebrates Canada's role in the Second World War and the liberation of the Netherlands — runs from May 14 to May 24, although an early spring means some tulips are blooming already. 

Thirty gardens are in place across the Ottawa-Gatineau region.

Both the festival and the National Capital Commission, which plants and tends the tulips, encourage those who stop to smell the flowers to do so through a mask or alone, away from crowds. 

Ottawans should also only visit parks close to home and avoid travelling, organizers say.

Conservation officers will be stationed at various sites to discourage people gathering too closely but won't be passing out tickets, said Riding. They will call bylaw officers if necessary. 

Tulips bloom in Ottawa on April 13, 2021. Thirty gardens are in place across the Ottawa-Gatineau region for this year's tulip festival. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Riding said the festival is equipped with greater knowledge this year.

"When we did it last time, we didn't even know about masks," she said. "We had to go out of the gate really early last year."

Last year, people were initially prohibited from even photographing the flowers but that rule doesn't apply this May, Riding said.

"A year has gone by and there's been a lot of lessons learned," said NCC spokesperson Dominique Huras. "There's more science and evidence proving that getting outside is good for health."

LTC home residents in mind

Huras encourages people to avoid visiting during peak hours and go on weekdays, if possible.  

Still, the safest way to view the tulips is online, said Riding. With the city's most vulnerable people in mind, the festival will provide guided virtual tours.

"We want to bring them to you, certainly for retirement residences and long-term care centres, the virtual tour is a fantastic option for guests," she said.

Approximately 200,000 tulips were grown at a nearby farm in preparation, Riding said, and can also be sent as bouquets to anyone in the Ottawa-Gatineau region. 

For those attending in person, the messaging remains simple.

"Be smart, be safe, stay in your household groups [and] wear a mask if you can't be distanced," Riding said.

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