Canadian Tulip Festival: Festival searches for new financing strategy amid financial headwinds

Canadian Tulip Festival: Festival searches for new financing strategy amid financial headwinds

The president of Ottawa’s annual tulip festival said the display will go on as the organization seeks to recover from post-pandemic financial headwinds.

The Canadian Tulip Festival has been a staple of Ottawa’s spring season, but over the past few years, federal, provincial and civic financial support for the festival has steadily declined, according to executive director Joe Riding.

“Everyone has limited budgets right now,” Riding told Bill Carroll on 580 CFRA on Monday.

“Since the pandemic, everyone has had to tighten measures, including government funding for festivals. We know we have to be focused, we know we have to be creative.”

The festival, which celebrates the role of Canadian forces in liberating the Netherlands and Europe, has been held every year since 1953.

Every May, more than a million lavender flowers cover the Ottawa area in Commissioner’s Park on the banks of the Rideau Canal and in various parts of the city. The event typically receives about 500,000 visitors and costs about $800,000. Riding says the festival has an economic impact of more than $40 million for the city.

Riding says the festival has lost about 30 percent of its total funding with federal, provincial and municipal funding declining.

“From the City of Ottawa side, we have been receiving consistent funding for years due to the nature of our festival,” she said.

“But now unfortunately, this is coming to an end, so we will be applying for funding.”

The 2022 Economic Development Report says the festival received $100,000 in funding from the City of Ottawa. Riding says funding is expected to be cut in half this year and phased out by next year.

The festival also receives financial assistance from Canadian Heritage and the Province of Ontario, all of which has also been reduced.

Organizers will have to apply for economic development funding from the city, a process that Riding says can be long and highly uncertain.

“We will do our best to get back to how we were before, but it will take some time,” Riding said.

The funding crisis means that audiences will not see the music shows or fireworks traditionally seen at the festival, but free films and a drone show are scheduled.

While organizers scramble to find new sources of funding, Riding assures residents that the festival will always remain free.

“We will not enter with a Memorial Day ticket and we will not enter the Tulip Festival,” she said.

“When you talk about a topic like this, it is our duty to educate people and it is our duty to educate the next generation, especially now.”

The Canadian Tulip Festival will be held May 10-20.

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