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You’ve heard of fan conventions and holiday parties, local fruit festivals, fudge festivals, and even ice cream festivals. But what the heck is a tulip festival and how are they celebrated? Well, these stunning seasonal events are actually a featured attraction in many nations, on many continents, celebrating the symbol of Holland, the symbol of Iran, of Turkey, and so many other places in the world.
What is a Tulip Festival?
Simply put, a tulip festival is like any other festival: a time of celebration, focused on one thing, in this case, the tulip. Each festival has distinctions from other festivals, whether it’s the number of bulbs planted, the location, the celebratory activities, the special features, markets, or even food offerings available at and near each locale. Each festival, though, will have a huge display of tulips growing and showing off their natural beauty in open fields, garden beds, container gardens, and other formats.
Many will also have a host of other tulip related events. Take the Canadian Tulip Festival, purported to be the largest tulip festival in the world. They have the incredible tulips on display, along with markets, boutiques, food vendors, movies in the park, nighttime Blacklight Boardwalk events, and a light and sound show. Others may have rides, artisans selling wares (usually tulip themed), contests, other carnival attractions, 5k and 10k races, live performances, edible tulip offerings, and much, much more.
They also often accompany Dutch, Turkish, or Iranian heritage festivals, as the tulip is the national symbol or flower of these countries.
What is There to Do and See?
The happenings at event will vary somewhat, based on the organizing organizations goals for the festivals. Some may be run as a memorial event, like the Canadian Tulip Festival, while others are conservancy celebrations seeking to raise funds for the preservation of tulip grounds, parks, or other worthy charities. Some are more art-based and focus heavily on artisans and artists with tulip-themed creations and others may be like the Midwest Tulip Fest which is owned and operated by the Kuipers Family Farm.
Typical activities you’ll find include:
- Tulip viewing
- Tulip boutiques, markets, and vendors
- Food vendors
- Shows, performances, and live entertainment
- Guided tours
- Self-guided tours
- Farm stands
- Beauty pageants
- Races (on foot and small vehicles like lawnmowers)
- Activities for kids (arts and crafts, easy mazes, etc.)
Where are They Held?
The short answer is anywhere that tulips bloom! The long answer is that these festivals are typically held where tulips are a big part of the local culture and economy. For example, Tulip Time in Holland, Michigan, heavily celebrates its Dutch heritage, and therefore the representative tulips. The city is literally named for the founders’ original home and continues the tradition of Dutch heritage through many events and attractions like the Tulip Time festival and the Dutch Village.
Some of the most famous tulip festivals around the world include:
What is the Largest Tulip Festival in the World?
There are several such festivals vying for the title. Most recently and consistently, the Canadian Tulip Festival has been given the title. The festival has been around since the 1950s after Canadian soldiers gave their lives helping to liberate the Netherlands during World War II. They plant something near a half million bulbs each year producing over 300,000 flowers.
How Do I Attend One?
Most events these days have ticket sales both online and in-person day-of at the event. For some, the tickets online have discounted prices, encouraging folks to, in essence, RSVP to the event to help vendors and organizers get an idea of how many might attend, particularly in the early years of a festival. Others sell the tickets online for the same or approximate price offering other discounts or perks for purchasing in advance.
Ideally, you’ll buy your tickets ahead of time, especially if there are massive crowds at major events like Kuekenhof or Tulip Time. Be prepared for a day outdoors, as well, with:
- Comfortable walking shoes
- Sunscreen and other UV protective wear
- Water to stay hydrated
- Snacks (or plans to purchase on-site)
- A map of the event, if available (check online)
- Hand sanitizer
It’s also recommended that you carry cash if you intend to purchase items from food vendors or artisans, as some may not have machines set up for easy card purchases.