Tulip Festival in May to Turn Ottawa Into a 'Bloom' Town

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By Tyler Davidson

Reed Travel Features

OTTAWA -- The capital of Canada will be beautified by 3 million blooming tulips during the annual Canadian Tulip Festival May 9 to 19.

The festival is rooted in history, tracing its beginnings to 1946, when Princess Juliana of the Netherlands presented the city with 100,000 tulip bulbs to thank Canada for providing a safe haven for her nation's exiled royal family during World War II (the royal family still sends a gift of bulbs every year).

The people of Holland followed suit by sending private contributions of bulbs to the capital, making the flower a symbol of friendship between nations.

The Ottawa Board of Trade created the festival in 1951, and for the past few years a different city or country that has contributed to the cause of international friendship or floral culture has been honored.

Japan's floral tradition will be honored during this year's festival, with that country's Tonami Tulip Festival serving as a conduit for the exchange of culture and flora between the two nations.

Traditional Japanese music and craftwork also will be featured.

Festivities will take place along a nine-mile Tulip Route stretching along the Rideau Canal through the heart of the city and across the Ottawa River to Hull, Quebec.

Festival-goers can ride a Tulip Shuttle Bus to any of the sites along the Tulip Route. Walking, cycling or boat tours are other options.

Highlights include the Central Experimental Farm, a 600-acre working farm in the center of town; Dows Lake, which will exhibit hundreds of thousands of painstakingly ar-ranged tulips; a display of 300,000 tulips in Commissioner's Park, which also will offer breakfast, lunch, tea and music among the tulips; beds of tulips gracing the terrace of Rideau Centre, which overlooks downtown; the National Capital Marathon, and a friendship celebration that features a carnival night, fireworks and Japanese floral displays at Major's Hill Park.

Major tulip festival-themed events include:

* A showcase of international flowers, trees and plants at Ottawa's Central Experimental Farm, held throughout the festival. The farm also will host a sheep-shearing competition from May 17 to 19.

* The Rideau Canal Flotilla, held on the waters of Dows Lake and Rideau Canal during the day on May 18; a night flotilla featuring fully illuminated boats will take place May 17.

* Japanese-style floral ar-rangements and an ikebana exhibition will be held at the Canadian Museum of Nature May 14 through 18.

Local tour planner A.B. See Tours is coordinating packages for English-speaking groups of 30 or more participants. The firm's packages range in price from about $5.50 per person for admission to the masquerade Japanese Carnival Theme Night and Fireworks event to approximately $110 per motorcoach for a two-and-a-half-hour city tour.

A canal cruise package for about $7 per person and packages featuring meals at festival sights also are available. Discounts on most of the events are extended to groups that reserve the approximately $9 per person Tulip Welcome Package.

For more information on group tours, contact A.B. See Tours at (800) 383-9142; fax (800) 781-8840.

For general information about the Canadian Tulip Festival, call (613) 567-5757.

The festival has a Web site at http://www.tulipfestival.ca.

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