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Residents, visitors take in opening ceremonies of the Canadian Tulip Festival

It’s Tanushree Ghosh and her friends’ first time in Ottawa, travelling quite the distance to snap a photo with Ottawa’s famous tulips.

“I travelled by bus from Toronto to Kingston then Kingston to Ottawa,” said Ghosh, a university student.

“I just hope the rain doesn’t spoil it,” said her friend.

The rain did make a brief appearance on Saturday, but that didn’t stop the large crowds from making their way to the Canadian Tulip Festival’s opening weekend.

“We are having a perfect bloom for this year’s festival,” said the festival’s director Jo Riding.

“Our early bloomers are fully out, our mid bloomers are ready to go and our late bloomers are just starting to have colours on the buds.”

Nearly one million tulips will be seen across Ottawa-Gatineau, including Commissioner’s Park, Major’s Hill Park and along the Rideau Canal.

The Canadian Tulip Festival kicked off May 10, 2024, despite reduced funding from all levels of government. The festival welcomes more than 400,000 visitors last year. (Leah Larocque/CTV News Ottawa)

The festival commemorates the role of the Canadian troops in the liberation of the Netherlands and Europe. As a gift of gratitude, the Dutch government sends Canada tulip bulbs every year since 1945.

This year’s event is also honouring the Royal Canadian Air Force’s 100 years of service.

A special guest was in the crowd at Saturday’s opening ceremonies – 98-year-old Ron “Shorty” Moyes, an RCAF veteran who served as a tail gunner in the Second World War.

“We dropped the markers for the bombing command to drop the food. We were only two hundred feet up in the air, huge crowd,” he said. “Princess Margaret’s husband was one of the ones standing, waving at us. I didn’t know that at the time.”

Former Ottawa mayor Jim Watson was among the invitees present at Saturday’s opening ceremonies.

“The tulip festival is one of the best events we have in Ottawa,” said Watson. “I was honoured to be invited.”

“It’s wonderful, I love it all the tulips with the beautiful different colours. This trip … worthwhile,” said Marlene Pollock, who travelled with her family from Toronto.

The 11-day festival includes daily movies in the park, a light and sound experience near Dow’s Lake and a drone show to close out the festival.

“Last year, we saw 415,000 people over 11 days and nights and we expect that many this year,” said Riding.

Sunday will mark the return of another tradition – the Mother’s Day fun run that starts at noon.

The entire event runs until May 20.

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