Tulip festival relocation paints rosy picture for Armstrong, B.C. tourism: mayor

Click to play video: 'Beloved Abbotsford tulip festival to ‘rebloom’ in the Okanagan'
Beloved Abbotsford tulip festival to ‘rebloom’ in the Okanagan
WATCH: The beloved Abbotsford Tulip Festival is saying farewell to the Fraser Valley but there are plans to rebloom. – Jan 25, 2021

The mayor of Armstrong, B.C., is welcoming news the widely popular and colourful Abbotsford Tulip Festival is re-locating to his small North Okanagan community.

Chris Pieper, mayor of Armstrong, said he was in “absolute shock” when he heard the news on Monday.

“I had a view of the photo from Abbotsford and it’s absolutely beautiful and I am really excited about it,” he said.

The mayor added that like all communities, tourism and hospitality-related businesses have been struggling. The event, expected to launch in 2022, will assist with post-pandemic economic recovery, he said.

Read more: COVID-19 pandemic, land sale forces Abbotsford Tulip Festival to move to Okanagan

“I think it will be a shot in the arm for tourism at any time. I talked to the owner and it is going to be an evolving mission for them starting from zero,” Pieper said.

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The large and bright Abbotsford Tulip Festival has been a staple in the Fraser Valley since 2016.

The outdoor event attracted up to 100,000 visitors each year over six weeks from April to May, who gathered to marvel at the 2.5 million rainbow-coloured tulips in full bloom.

But organizers said the COVID-19 pandemic and related ban on mass gatherings, including the forced cancellation of the 2020 event, contributed to their decision to permanently close.

That, combined with the fact that the land where the festival had been held for four consecutive years was sold to new owners.

A young boy runs through rows of tulips at the Abbotsford Tulip Festival in B.C., on Sunday April 17, 2016. Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press

The agricultural farming family behind the event decided to pack up and re-locate to Armstrong, Alexis Szarek and her husband, Marc, said they hope the event re-blooms in the North Okanagan.

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Read more: Abbotsford Tulip Festival holds contest for solo time with 2.5 million flowers

“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 Northern Okanagan,” said Alexis Szarek.

“We want to thank all of our dedicated staff and volunteers who greatly contributed to our success in Abbotsford, as well as the many community stakeholders who helped us along the way.”

Szarek is a third-generation Canadian tulip farmer and founded the massively-successful event at just 28 years old.

Click to play video: 'Fields of green on opening day at Abbotsford Tulip festival'
Fields of green on opening day at Abbotsford Tulip festival

She said her vision for Bloom was to share her love of farming and inspire an appreciation for the splendor of the tulip season while providing visitors with a chance to enjoy over 40 varieties of tulips.

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“They are nervous about the pandemic but they bought a farm in Spallumcheen and we are definitely looking forward to them coming to our community and providing this kind of a service,” Pieper said.

The event will be suspended in 2021 as tulips must be planted in October, and the family didn’t move to the area until November. The plan is to launch in 2022.

Read more: Vancouver’s 2020 Celebration of Light scrapped due to coronavirus pandemic

“It will increase tourism, it will probably supply jobs to our area, so we are looking forward to it,” the mayor said.

The young flower farmer became a leader for innovation in the agritourism sector.

She has received numerous awards including the 2016 Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award from the Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce and 2017 University of the Fraser Valley Distinguished Alumni Award.

Szarek is a board member on the BC Young Farmers Committee and served as chair in 2018 and 2019.

Click to play video: 'Millions of colourful tulips in bloom in B.C.'
Millions of colourful tulips in bloom in B.C.

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