Tulips of the Valley Festival– A Look Back to see Where It All Blossomed

Tulips of the Fraser Valley – 12 Years of Bringing My Farm to Your Family…

Can you believe it’s been 12 years of tulips?

We might be the oldest and largest tulip festival in Western Canada, but like a fine wine, we get better with age! We are the original tulip aficionados. That means, Tulips of the Valley was the first to bring acres of bountiful flowers to the Fraser Valley and beyond. And no one does tulips like us!

How did we get here? Let’s look back at some of our festival highlights…

2006 – That was our inaugural year. Remember 2006? The Winter Olympic Games were held in Turin, Italy. Gwen Stefani was just a singer and not on ‘The Voice’. Pluto was downgraded from a planet and Nintendo introduced the Wii. We recall 2006 a little differently. My dad and I were out in the fields. We set up our little 10×10 tent and sat there for 2 weeks. Guests entered by donation and part of the proceeds were given to the Fraser Valley Child Development Centre. Guests loved that we pre-sold our Canadian-grown tulip bulbs. It was ‘our thing’, and made people want to learn more about growing tulips.

This first year I believe we had 200-300 visitors. Not bad…

2007- Gwen still had a hit song and we were probably rocking out to it, as we set up for our second year. The festival drew just around 1,000 visitors this time, and many of them were photographers. They loved the panoramic views that the fields provided, and the colours were so dazzling, they made great pictures. We also became members of the local Circle Farm Tour. That was quite a moment! We had gained the attention of local tourism groups. The fest was growing…

2008-  But, we wanted to make it more inclusive. 2008 was our year of cultural expansion! We were leasing Aboriginal land on Seabird Island, so we wanted to make our festival more culturally accessible. Celebrating diversity is a key value of ours and so we set out to incorporate Aboriginal elements into our event. We remember, we had June Harris set up her Bannock stand, which became another exciting draw for our customers. Honey View Farms also set up a stand, and would continue to have one yearly on Seabird Island. We saw a lot of new people, especially South Asian guests and we learned that many visitors came from afar to see something just like this (especially as flowers are valued by many different cultures). We saw a lot of Mandarin and Korean speakers, and that’s when we realized – this festival has the potential to bring us all together.

We had a 20×20 tent now and around 2,500 visitors…

2009 – Our festival was developing. We were ‘moving on up’. So, my friend Ron Johnson helped me develop my first festival logo. We were official now! We started selling potted tulips along with our cut tulips.  We also sold a selection of products from different Circle Farm participants, things like cheese, hazelnuts and coffee. The festival was growing so rapidly, I now needed a larger staff to run my store and manage the fields. It was a success, though.

We had over 3,500 people at the fields that year, including several tour buses!

2010 – In 2010, Vancouver hosted the Winter Olympics. We all remember what a rush that was! So many visitors from all around the globe. Maybe some of them stuck around afterwards, because we saw a great influx of new guests. We received over 5,000 visitors and we now had two more permanent tents making up our store.

2011 – This was a stellar year as well. The fest kept seeing masses of visitors, and though we no longer pre-sold tulip bulbs, due to the significant amount of work required, we focused instead on educating visitors about tulips. We added info banners throughout the fields, so that our customers would have a better understanding of the process involved in growing them, such as the fact that it takes up to seven years for a tulip bulb to grow large enough to bear a flower see other great flower facts in our ‘life of a tulip’ section.

Festival Boys with balloons in the tulip fields2012- Wasn’t this the year the Mayans said the world would end? Well, thank goodness that didn’t happen. Because we expanded the festival once again. Other vendors were added to the field, and we kept our best-sellers, Honey View Farms and June’s Bannock. My middle son, Ryley, started his ‘Balloon Boy’ career at the tender age of eight. If you’re not sure what that is, you’ll have to come see us at the fest to find out. Also, we started working closely with the Seabird Island Travel Club, who started to run our parking while raising funds for their members to travel to different places.

This was a record year. We had around 8,000 visitors and growing…

2013 -Team tulip saw another great addition this year. The festival became alive with interactive features like our Aboriginal drummer and dancer, and our Sasquatch spotting in the tulips. We think we got him, but darn that photo came out blurry! It was a good year for all, with 10,000 visitors to our tulip fields.

2014- Remember the rain? Oh my gosh, we sure needed gum boots to get through the acres of flowers. No wonder they called our region ‘Rain-couver’ that year! Though it was a very wet festival, our guests’ spirits were still high. We saw a huge increase in our visitor numbers. We almost couldn’t believe how big we’d become. We were beginning to understand, this had become a ‘must-see’ event, almost a Fraser Valley ritual. It was very exciting for both staff and visitors.

We witnessed our first drones flying over our fields and our guests numbered 16,000!

(In fact, one of the drones picked a tulip by accident, which is why we’re very selective with drone usage)

2015 – This was our biggest year! Everything on the fields was beautiful. We were really in the swing of things now. We had a full-blown flower fest on our hands, with several places to buy food, including our very own Stroop Waffle stand. People could now stay all day if they wanted. There were vendors on-site with tummy-pleasing treats and special gifts for sale. We had won the support of Hope tourism, along with Harrison Tourism. They spread the word. And as the crowds grew, so did our parking challenges. We didn’t want people to have to search for parking outside our fields, but we had reached our max visitor capacity in our current location. So, it was time to consider a new venue for our festival. As much as we loved Seabird Island, and all the friends we had made there, we knew it was time for a change. We needed room to grow.

Because we reached 28,000 visitors and the numbers kept going up…

2016 – This is the year the first flower was grown at the International Space Station (a zinnia, in case you were interested). The Star Wars film franchise was rebooted by Disney. And the ‘force’ was with us when we were seeking new land for our tulip fest. Our lease was up on Seabird island, and we searched around. Then, we spotted the perfect place in Chilliwack! Acres of prime farm land, wonderfully suited for our working farm and its day-to-day needs, also ideal for our yearly tulip event. It was a bit of a tense time. Because of the move, we were unsure whether we could continue running the festival component. We took a year off to work on the logistics. We knew that our guests were missing us. They went to other local events in the meantime, but their comments were the same – they wanted Tulips of the Valley to return once more!

So, we kept working hard…Training those tulips and our tulip teams.

2017 – This might have been a year of division and intolerance – something sad to see in our wonderfully diverse world. But, for us, this was the year that our community came together, and with some amazing support from the farmers whose land we were leasing, we were able to re-open our festival in Chilliwack! Our new location was beautiful. However, due to our one-year closure, our first year in Chilliwack saw slightly lower numbers. Other fests had been introduced in the area and we saw intense competition from other growers. Nevertheless, we had faith in our wonderful new venue, and our customers were delighted with our new location!

And this year, we’re returning with the drive to be the Best Flower Fest and even more inclusive!

Especially now, when the world seems to need it the most. So, we’ve made sure that our fields are accessible to every kind of patron; children, seniors and those with physical disabilities. And we welcome every nationality, whether you’re from down the road, or across the globe.

Rotary Club Train Rides for Kids | Tulips of the Valley ChilliwackWe’ve introduced some new elements that will make Tulips of the Valley once again the place for people to come together. Our “welcome” and “thank you for visiting” signs are in 20 languages, including the local First Nation language. Wheelchair accessible parking can be found right next to the fields, and there is a covered area for guests to sit under if they can’t navigate the pathways. Also, new this year, is the involvement of the local Rotary Club, who will be running a tractor train at the festival fields on weekends, to allow those with mobility issues a chance to further enjoy the tulips.

After all, the language of flowers is universal – everyone can enjoy them! So, we hope you can come out and see us in 2018. Let’s make this year the best!