One of Abbotsford’s most popular attractions is saying farewell to the community, with plans to eventually set up in Armstrong in the northern Okanagan.
Bloom: The Abbotsford Tulip Festival was founded by Alexis Szarek (formerly Warmderdam) and was first held in 2016.
She said the goal of the event was to bring four generations of her family’s passion for growing tulips to a broader audience.
The outdoor festival was held for four consecutive years on a 10-acre farm on North Parallel Road. It attracted up to 100,000 visitors each year over six weeks in April and May to take in the 2.5 million rainbow-coloured tulips in full bloom.
The event was cancelled in 2020 due to the pandemic.
Szarek said the festival employed dozens of staff and volunteers every year, and had a significant impact on the local economy while boosting tourism and putting Abbotsford on a global stage for its reputation as an agri-tourism destination.
The festival was featured in dozens of international publications and on programs such as CBC’s The Nature of Things with David Suzuki.
Szarek said the Abbotsford Tulip Festival also contributed more than $120,000 through volunteer hours to the Abbotsford Kiwanis Club, the Canadian Ski Patrol, Clearbrook Kiwanis Club and W. J. Mouat Secondary’s dry grad.
She said several recent factors impacted the decision to permanently close the event, including last year’s cancellation as well as the uncertainty of the 2021 season.
In addition, the land where the festival had been held was sold earlier this year to new owners, further compromising its future.
Szarek and her growing family have since relocated to Armstrong, where she and her husband, Marc, hope to re-imagine Bloom.
She thanked all the staff, volunteers and community stakeholders who helped in the success of the Abbotsford event.
“It’s a bittersweet feeling to say goodbye to the incredible community that supported our vision for the last few years but we’re hopeful for the future of the event in our new community in the northern Okanagan,” she said.
Craig Nichols, executive director of Tourism Abbotsford, said the Abbotsford Tulip Festival offered a “tremendous” economic benefit to the community.
He said Swoop and Flair airlines brought travellers from primary feeder markets in Alberta to the festival, and Tourism Abbotsford’s spring marketing campaigns included several local businesses and accommodation packages resulting in new visitor spending and overnight stays.
“We sensed from the moment Alexis first presented her tulip festival concept that she was going to be successful. She had passion and a vision that was easy to support,” Nichols said.
“As anticipated, the crowds came and shared their experiences on social media. Tulip imagery was becoming synonymous with Abbotsford provincially, nationally and internationally.”
Nichols said although the city is disappointed to see the departure of Bloom, there are “strong plans” in place this year, and the community is encouraged to follow the “Let’s Do Something” campaign, which launched in the spring.