Winter may define Canadians but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a collective sigh of relief when Mother Nature shows Old Man Winter the door each spring. Spirits soar with those first signs of the changing seasons – flowers and trees blooming, birds singing, days growing longer, and temperatures slowly warming. There’s no better way to celebrate this rebirth than with a festival and Canadian communities do just that from coast-to-coast during April, May and June.
Three of the best known spring celebrations are the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival, the Canadian Tulip Festival in Ottawa, and the Annapolis Apple Blossom Festival in Nova Scotia.
Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival
A milder climate means the city of Vancouver welcomes spring earlier than the rest of the country with the annual Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival (VCBF) in April. Canada’s only such festival is a month-long celebration of the pink and white blossoms which blanket the city and herald the arrival of spring. Many of the 45,000 cherry trees in Vancouver were originally gifts from Japan. Linda Poole, who founded the VCBF in 2005, describes the festival as “a perfect way to express our gratitude for this generous gift and to celebrate the beauty and joy they bring to everyone.”
This year the festival runs from April 3rd-28th with a full schedule of mostly-free community events beginning with the popular Cherry Jam Downtown Concert. The celebration continues over the course of the month with garden tours, art demonstrations, guided walks, and many special events including the Cherry Blossom picnic and a free, guided Bike the Blossoms.
Some of the best blossom viewing in the city is in Van Dusen Botanical Garden, which also hosts the Sakura Days Japan Fair celebrating the culture, traditions and food of Japan. This year some of Vancouver’s top Japanese chefs are also lending support for the first-ever Sakura Night. This charitable event is a celebration of Japanese cuisine, which will raise funds for the festival.
Canadian Tulip Festival
In Ottawa-Gatineau, it’s the tulips in bloom that signal the arrival of spring. The Capital Region’s tulips have an interesting history, dating back to World War II when Canada provided safe haven to Princess Juliana of the Netherlands and her daughters. After the war’s end, the Dutch gifted Canada with tulip bulbs as a thank you and as a symbol of friendship between the two countries. The tulips were so popular that, in 1953, the Ottawa Board of Trade proposed holding an annual tulip festival to coincide with the blooming of the flowers and the Canadian Tulip Festival was launched. It is now the largest tulip festival in the world and will run May 9th-19th this year.
More than 1 million bulbs are showcased across the Capital Region each year, with popular viewing locations in Commissioners Park, Major’s Hill Park and around Parliament Hill. There’s much more to do than just look at flowers as the festival boasts a full slate of fun activities and entertainment for everyone including bicycle tours, free concerts at City Hall, treasure hunts, family activities, a competitive display of tulips at Floral Plaza, and a spectacular Victoria Day firework display to close out the celebration.
Annapolis Valley Apple Blossom Festival
The Annapolis Valley, located along Nova Scotia’s Bay of Fundy, will celebrate the 82nd annual Apple Blossom Festival in 2014 from May 28th– June 2nd. The first apple blossom festival was held in 1933 to promote the apple industry, showcase the scenic beauty of the area and celebrate the end of winter and the promise of a new growing season. The festival, which now marks the start of Nova Scotia’s tourism season, is a top tourist attraction in the region and has even had the honour of being recognized on a Canadian postage stamp.
Visitors and residents enjoy driving through the valley to view the blossoming trees in the apple orchards as well as participating in the long list of family-friendly activities and events that are part of the Apple Blossom Festival. These include hikes and tours, concerts, barbeques, community teas, craft fairs, fireworks, the coronation of a Festival Queen and two highly anticipated parades.
The Apple Blossom Grand Street Parade, one of the largest parades in Canada, has been a highlight since the festival’s inception, and a children’s parade held earlier the same day provides youngsters with the opportunity to show up in costume and parade through downtown Kentville. The festival is fun for residents and visitors alike as everyone joins in the springtime celebration.
These festivals and others like them are a fun way for Canadians of all ages to celebrate the arrival of spring. Anyone planning to travel out-of-province, however, should remember to buy travel insurance as your provincial health plan will not fully cover out-of-province medical emergencies.