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Major North American festival blossomed with bulbs donated by Queen Juliana

High profile event sprang from annual gift

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

OTTAWA, Ontario - Queen Juliana leaves with the Canadian Tulip Festival a high-profile albeit indirect legacy in Ottawa, Canada’s capital city. The queen since 1945 each year sent a donation of flowering bulbs to the National Capital Commission which oversees federal government property in the city. Juliana’s tribute to Canada’s hospitality which gave her a sanctuary during the war years, in the early 1950s became a launching pad for the hugely popular festival. It attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors to the winding parkways with their vast array of bright colours. The flowering bulb show perhaps only is surpassed in size and beauty by Keukenhof and its immediate vicinity in the Netherlands.

Then princess Juliana after she had returned to live in her liberated country - freed largely by Canadian troops who lost a significant number of soldiers on Dutch soil - pledged to annually donate a generous number of flowering bulbs to enhance the city’s very popular spring festival which then already focussed on flowers. The Dutch royal tulips in a few years overwhelmed the flowers of spring bedding plants. Cheered on by photographer Malak who remembered the princess from his portrait sessions, a local group was formed to attract even more tourists to the event.

The Canadian Tulip Festival has blossomed into one of the largest attractions of its kind in North America and is held in May each year.

News of the passing of the former Dutch Queen who reigned from 1948 to 1980, received prominent coverage in Canada’s newspapers.

The great majority of the Dutch immigrants living in North America, emigrated during the decades Juliana was queen. On her state visit to Canada in 1967, Queen Juliana met with Dutch Canadians in many parts of the country. In Victoria, B.C. she unveiled the first stone of the Netherlands Centennial Carillon, a gift to the province from its Dutch Canadian community.