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Thousands come out for last day of Canadian Tulip Festival on Victoria Day

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Artist Johanne Richer never knows when inspiration will hit, but when she's surrounded by tulips at Commissioners Park in Ottawa, she doesn't have to look far.

"When I came in this morning I said, 'Okay where am I going to go?' My eyes are not big enough to capture the beauty of the nature," Richer said.

Richer joined the thousands that came out for the final day of the Canadian Tulip Festival, trying to capture that perfect picture on a hot, sunny Victoria Day.

"It’s a beautiful day out with the family," said Peter Bahraini. "It’s a long weekend, so it’s a perfect opportunity to visit the Tulip Festival."

Organizers say last year’s festival brought in half a million visitors and this year, they’re expecting that number to grow.

"We’ve probably seen a few tens of thousands more than we did last year, it’s been a great bloom, we’ve had some great shows, and we’ve met people from all over the world," said the festival's organizer, Jo Riding.

The tulips are a staple of the spring season in Ottawa, but funding cuts meant changes to this year’s programming, including new self-guided tours, swapping fireworks for a drone show and relying heavily on volunteers.

In total, Riding says the festival lost about 30 per cent of its total funding as federal, provincial and municipal funding has declined.

"I was expecting that they had scaled back a lot because of the cutbacks, but I think they did a pretty good job on a tight budget," said Mary Jaekl.

Even though the city has yet to commit to any funding for next year, Riding says she’s committed to bringing the festival back for the 80th anniversary of the liberation of the Netherlands.

The festival was established to celebrate the Dutch royal family gift of tulips following the war, as a symbol of international friendship and has been held every year since 1953.

"We certainly are hopeful that they'll see the impact that we have on the city. Not just the, tangible impact, the spending and tourism dollars which amounts to about 40 million for the city, but also the intangibles," Riding said. "Which is the smiles on all of these faces, the barrier free access to this park, and being able to share our stories and our history with new Canadians."

The festival also provides a much needed boost to nearby local businesses on Preston Street like Pub Italia.

"It’s been great, the crowds have been wall to wall. It’s hard to have another festival that brings that many people to the city," said Pub Italia owner Joe Cotroneo.

"I think it's something the city's got to look at is not cutting their funding. It’s hard to have another festival that brings that many people to the city."

While the organizers are actively finding new sources of funding, Riding is assuring residents the festival will always remain free of charge.

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