Folks are flocking to the first annual Tulip Festival in the North Okanagan.
More than 2.5 acres of farmland are blooming with more than 20 varieties of tulips in Armstrong-Spallumcheen on Knob Hill Road, where a sunflower festival was held last year.
The festival comes courtesy of Alexis Szarek, a third-generation flower grower and the creator of Bloom Flower Festivals. She hosted the Abbotsford Tulip Festival for four years before COVID-19 cancelled the fifth annual event in 2020, two weeks before the festival was to run.
“We had 10 acres of tulips ready to go,” she said.
Making the best of a bad situation, she and her husband Marc used the pandemic as an opportunity to fulfill a long-held wish to move to the B.C. Interior.
“We were looking for an area that was both great to raise families, smaller and a little bit slower pace, as well as good farming country,” Szarek said.
Few places in the Interior could fit that description better than Armstrong-Spallumcheen.
The festival was slated to end on Sunday, May 22, but Szarek says the event will run an additional weekend, Friday and Saturday, May 27-28, with more possible openings on Thursday, May 26.
That’s because with the colder weather this spring, some of the tulip varieties haven’t bloomed yet.
Since the festival began, the Szarek farm has been a popular spot for taking photos with loved ones as they’ve placed a number of photo props in the field, including a large spherical mirror, furniture and even a bathtub.
“Overall the feedback we have gotten has been extremely positive,” Szarek said, adding that U-pick buckets have completely sold out.
Tulips, the Dutch national flower, have a special significance to Szarek. Her grandfather Peter Warmerdam immigrated to Canada from the Netherlands after the Second World War, bringing with him his horticultural knowledge and farming experience.
“When my dad took over the farm in the 80s he added tulips to the mix,” she said. “I guess you could say it’s in my blood.”
People visiting the farm who have limited mobility can hitch a ride on a side-by-side, or ride the old fashioned way with Horse Drawn Okanagan.
For more information or to purchase tickets for the festival, visit bloomflowerfestivals.com.