The Canadian Tulip Festival in Ottawa is going virtual once again

Canadian tulip festival

It’s looking like The Canadian Tulip Festival in Ottawa is going virtual again this year.

As of this week, the Province of Ontario has announced a stay-at-home order within weeks of the tulips blooming at the festival site in Commissioners Park, at Dow’s Lake.

“The safest way to enjoy the tulips this year is online,” stressed the festival’s Executive Director,  Jo Riding. “With the information provided by Ottawa Public Health, we knew to prepare for a third variant-based wave this spring and have done everything we can to bring the tulips to Ottawa, Canada, and the world.”

Fans of the festival are asked to stay home and experience the gift of tulips through an immersive virtual experience at

Virtual walking tours with a live tour guide are being offered from May 14 – 24, 2021, 10:00 am to 4:00 pm EST, and cost $10 per ticket.

Festival organizers aren’t new to hosting a virtual festival, having had to pivot to a completely online event last spring within two months of the pandemic. Given their experience last year, organizers were understandably cautious when planning for the upcoming 69th edition of Ottawa’s longest-running, largest attended event.

For those who live in the Ottawa area, the festival is fundraising through the sale of fresh, locally-grown cut tulip bouquets, sold online for curbside pickup or next-day delivery. All proceeds of the flower sales go towards the continuation of the Canadian Tulip Legacy, a registered charity.

The thirty public tulip gardens in the National Capital Region will remain open for local visitors, but festival organizers ask that they wear a mask,  visit at non-peak hours and follow social distancing guidelines while enjoying the flowers.

Admission to the festival site at Commissioners Park beside Dow’s Lake is free.

Kingston is magically hip

Kingston’s favourite sons, The Tragically Hip, have played their last concert in their hometown, but they won’t be the last big thing to come out of this small Ontario city that is bursting with creativity.

Part of that energy is fueled by the young student population of its academic institutions, Queen’s University, St. Lawrence College and the Royal Military College of Canada, but a lot of it stems from the city’s human scale. Everybody seems to know everybody and they all gather in the city’s charming and compact downtown to share a meal and some drinks and hatch new projects.

That human interaction is one of Kingston’s most potent attractions for visitors. Everyone is made to feel welcome and be part of the community, even if it’s just for one day.

“Give Kingston a chance. Give it a weekend and you will be amazed,” said Claire Bouvier, a local entrepreneur who is one of the co-founders of Kingston fashion truck, The Loft Girls. “There are so many amazing people in this town and, it is a secret, but once you’re here long enough you start to recognize how many incredible people are here.”

Claire Bouvier

One of those people is Eric Brennan, the chef at Le Chien Noir and a force in the city’s up-and-coming food scene that features a surprising number of outstanding restaurants crammed into the city’s historic downtown.

Eric Brennan

“In the summertime, especially, there’s lot of great places to go in Kingston,” said Brennan “There’s a huge patio scene going around and on the waterfront. I’m a patio hopper, for sure. I like going down the street to our friends at Tango Nuevo, kind of a Spanish tapas place that’s a lot of fun and I like that as much as I like the neighbourhood pub down the street, the Iron Duke on Wellington.”

Another pub worth visiting is Redhouse. Founded by the Reid brothers, Mike, Dave and Dan, it’s a happening spot that features good food, live music and local brews like Stone City and MacKinnon Brothers.

“We are trying to bring in some craft beers, some beers that people weren’t drinking,” said brother Mike, explaining the genesis of the brew pub. “We are getting away from the big, bland brands. We’re getting local, local produce. Everybody from the community were involved to start something new and it worked.”

And if you thought Kingston was a stodgy place that was all about Sir John A. MacDonald and Fort Henry, then you need to spend some time browsing the city’s many art galleries or make a visit to the Agnes Etherington Art Centre located in the heart of the historic campus of Queen’s University.

“Something that people don’t know about Kingston is that there is a large, large art community,” said Jo Perodin, who is an artist at Ink-Tegrity Tattoo Studio that she runs with her husband Max.  Kingston also happens to be home to Eikon Devices, one of the country’s best-known manufacturer of tattoo supplies.

Jo and Max Perodin

“We have multiple tattoo shops here in Kingston, all of us specializing in different styles, different art, different environments,” added Perodin.

Located halfway between Montreal and Toronto and a similar distance from Ottawa, Kingston seems to be the perfect combination of all of those places, but without any of their big-city pretensions. If you’ve only ever stopped on the outskirts of Kingston on the 401 to gas up your car, then you owe it to yourself to drive a few minutes into the downtown to see why it is such a magical place.

Kingston has numerous locally-owned shops that cater to all tastes. Start your explorations on Princess Street.

Le Chien Noir Bistro (69 Brock St.)

Redhouse (369 King St E.)

Holiday Inn Kingston Waterfront (2 Princess St.)

Fort Henry National Historic Site is a popular place to visit. For relaxing time, take the free ferry to Wolfe Island where you can go for a swim or enjoy the view of Kingston from the other side of the St. Lawrence River.

Canadian government marks the historical significance of the Dionne quintuplets

Canada has more than its fair share of historical events and places, but I’ve always thought that of the Dionne quintuplets was a bit of an oddity.

Born in the small Ontario town of Corbeil on May 28, 1934, the Dionne quintuplets may be the only set of identical quintuplets ever recorded and are the first quintuplets known to have survived their infancy. The odds of naturally occurring quintuplets are estimated to be about one in 55,000,000 births, but the odds of identical quintuplets are considered incalculable.

Their births during the Great Depression captured the world’s attention, and the sisters quickly became an international sensation.

I’m not sure why yesterday was chosen as the date to commemorate their lives, but the MP for Nipissing, Anthony Rota, unveiled a commemorative plaque at the Dionne Quintuplets birth home museum in North Bay which was moved from Corbeil in the 1980s.

The sad part of the story is that quintuplets were put under the control of a board of guardians soon after their birth and the girls spent their first nine years at “Quintland,” a specially-built facility where they were featured as a tourist attraction. Millions of tourists travelled from around the world to see them and witness firsthand the survival of the world’s most famous babies. Eventually, they were returned to their family in 1943. Could you imagine the outrage if that happened today?

In 1997, three of the surviving quintuplets (one has since died) wrote an open letter to the parents of septuplets, warning them about the exploitation they endured:

“Our lives have been ruined by the exploitation we suffered at the hands of the government of Ontario, our place of birth. We were displayed as a curiosity three times a day for millions of tourists. To this day we receive letters from all over the world. To all those who have expressed their support in light of the abuse we have endured, we say thank you. And to those who would seek to exploit the growing fame of these children, we say beware.”



Photos: Kicking views of Kingston

I was in Kingston, Ontario for a few days last week, interviewing some of the creative people who live and work there. It’s not my first time in the city, but everyone I met had a love for the city that was palpable. It’s really a great place to visit. Here are a few of the shots of the people I talked to and some other photos I took during previous visits.