Tulip Festival, 1st weekend

Reid and I went to the Canadian Tulip Festival on Sunday. We went twice, in fact, since we made it all of the way downtown before I realized that I’d left my purse at home. Reid’s eyes were fluttering when we left home the second time and I encouraged her to close her eyes so that she could get her nap out of the way. She actually followed my suggestion and was asleep in moments. I took the Aviation Parkway, being careful to set our newly-installed and fixed cruise control at exactly 60 kph. I saw many daffodils in bloom on the way downtown. There were only a few tulips to be seen until I got to Colonel By Drive and then especially near Dow’s Lake on the Queen Elizabeth Driveway. It was kind of cold and grey and so tulip watching from the car was just right for me. Reid missed all but the last few tulip beds due to her efficiency in napping early. The official bloom index was about 60% but I’m not sure which beds are included or what constitutes “blooming”.

As we drove, I pointed out that we were driving beside the Rideau Canal and that the same place where we skated in February was now home to boats. Reid smiled and commented, “It’s named like me!” We talked about the similar sound, how she likes to be called “Reidie” but we could call her “Reid-o” and what letters were the same and which were different. Reid focussed on the Rs being in the same place and was less interested in the reverse of the “eid” and “ide”. Reid sees a lot of signs in this part of the province for companies with “Reid” in their name and is getting used to the reflected glory. Now, she has a canal, too.

We parked under the National Arts Centre since the route to the Byward Market was blocked by the Battle of the Atlantic Sunday ceremony at the National War Memorial. I think I managed to find the parking spot located at the greatest possible distance. Next time I’ll know that parking in section “A” is far better than section “S”. (Obvious when you think of it ;+) Reid opted to ride in the umbrella-type stroller that I’d brought to help us tote our snacks, coats, camera, etc. I hope that I’m not dooming Reid to sedentary life but I have to confess that I still find the stroller to be useful for hurrying her along and for carrying supplies.

There are no admission fees for the Tulip Festival this year; it’s a “festival without fences” in this way. I don’t actually know who coined the term, I think it’s linked to the Célébridée event that is also happening and it’s a cool expression. In any case, the volunteers at the gate gave us a brochure and didn’t ask me for cash. The International Pavillion has areas of handicrafts, foods and other information from a range of countries, 24 in all. It was a sort of a bazaar more than exhibition booths, of the sort one sees at the Canadian National or Pacific National Exhibition. Reid seemed to find it a bit overwhelming, between the colours, noise level and crowds and the fact that she had only recently woken from her nap. Had she been up and active, though, I think I’d have been grumpy that almost everything came at a price. We paid $10 for a decorative representation of Reid’s name from the Chinese area – once we went to a bank machine off of the festival grounds since I’d grabbed my wallet which had lots of plastic but no cash – and took pictures with larger-than-Reid mascots for the Beijing Olympics. I didn’t spend much time looking at crafts since I wasn’t planning to purchase anything.

The Library and Archives Canada had a booth that offered a pencil sharpener, pencil and a “Give Me 5 Generations” work sheet for capturing 5 generations of a family tree. They advertised an exhibit on the Treaty of Paris and also one to mark the 100th Anniversary of the first Anne of Green Gables book. Veteran’s Affairs was promoting its remembrance programming with some colouring/activity sheets, Canadian flags – so popular with Reid, even if she thinks that they’re Sens flags – and some tattoos. The German embassy was giving out flower seeds embedded in cardboard sticks (like an over-sized matchbook), German flags and tattoos. The China exhibit had tourism brochures from a variety of areas. There was a UNICEF table with an ethical gift catalogue, but only in French, and a display from Holland with information about planting bulbs. Otherwise, I didn’t see free information or take-aways. I know the Tulip Festival folks are struggling to stage the festival but I don’t think this year’s exhibits in Major’s Hill Park quite hit the mark.

While we ate our lunch, we saw dancers on the stage set in a hollow square formed by the international pavilion tent. The first group were Turkish (I think) folk dancers. Reid was greatly impressed by their costumes and athleticism. She had many questions and I did my best to answer. I’d have drawn a parallel to highland step dancing as our cultural tradition but I doubt she has ever seen step dancers and, really, a square dance would probably be more relevant as a “traditional” dance for my family of origin.

There is a vintage 1930s-era carousel in the park, as well. Reid was excited about riding on it from the moment she spotted it. We had to wait until near the end of our visit, though, as a man was working on the motor when we first checked on the carousel. Tickets cost $3 a ride, which seemed steep until I considered the cost of tickets for rides at the Metcalfe Fair or other local fairs. I’m pretty sure ride tickets cost about a dollar a ticket and most require at least two tickets. I’d expected to have to pay for myself as well but they let adults on at no cost. At $3 for both of us to ride, it was a good deal. The parents spending $9 for their three kids might not agree. I gave my ticket to one such family and walked away feeling good for having lightened someone else’s burden.

Reid enjoyed her carousel ride on a white horse. It was a valiant steed and provided her a good seat from which to grill me on the carousel’s motor, the mirrors along the top of the interior housing and the motives of the other patrons. The most baffling thing to Reid was the father who sat in the “wagon” behind his daughters. It didn’t go up and down at all! She didn’t believe my explanation that some people like to go around without going up and down.

At one point Reid and I visited a wheelchair-accessible porta-john. It was so nice to be able to drive the stroller right in and not have to worry about which things needed to be carried in. And not having to do the shimmy-shuffle in a small enclosure with Reid was a joy in itself. I’ve made a mental note to look out for such facilities at other festivals. You might want to as well.

On our way back to the car, we stopped to peek through the decorative wall of the Plaza Bridge, beside the National War Memorial, down at the canal. We even tried to take the stairs down to see the canal up close but the barricades were still up from the summer. At least I hope that they were left-over snow safety fixtures rather than permanent barriers. I promised Reid we’d go exploring another time. It’s been far too long since I was in the Bytown Museum and they have an exhibit of childhood this summer, as an added incentive. Being at the Bytown Museum will put us right at the locks as well. They’re small but will still impress Reid. Ken is waiting for a repeat visit to the Welland Canal.

We won’t be in the city for the next 2 weekends of the Tulip Festival. We haven’t been to the Dow’s Lake site in years for anything more than a drive-by of the tulips. Maybe we’ll make it next year.

I noticed on the way home today that the tulips in the middle of the roundabout in front of the Governor General’s residence has the sunshine yellow tulips with petals that “flip out”. They look just like the tulips I draw – or like upside down bells. The tulips in front of the main Foreign Affairs building are the most vibrant orange-red that I could imagine. Tomorrow I’ll have to make a point of noticing the tulips on Parliament Hill. There really are a startling range of colours and shapes within the “tulip family”.

One Response to “Tulip Festival, 1st weekend”

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