The legacy of Abbotsford’s Tulip Fest is in full bloom

The Sumas Prairie agritourism sensation opens up about their past and future

Agritourism is a unique niche of BC tourism that comes from experiencing the life and culture of farming. (Justin Moore/The Omega)

As April turns to May, the Abbotsford Bloom Tulip Festival is already in full bloom. With fields of over 2.5 million tulips, food truck vendors, a new u-pick field and an on-site market, the Bloom Festival created by Alexis Warmerdam three years ago has become a major hotspot for Fraser Valley locals and tourists alike.

The festival is a tribute to Alexis Warmerdam’s grandfather, Peter Warmerdam, who immigrated to Canada from the Netherlands in 1948, bringing over his passion and knowledge of horticulture to his own farms in Abbotsford. Much like his granddaughter years later, Warmerdam grew up surrounded by bulbs back home in Sassenheim, a municipality widely popular for the growth of bulbs.

Peter’s son, Nick Warmerdam has since taken over the family business of growing tulips, daffodils, peonies and gladiolus at Lakeland Flowers, while Alexis Warmerdam tends to her popular Bloom Festival nearby.

The team of passionate staff and volunteers behind Bloom are now seeing their third year operating in the heart of the Sumas Prairie.

General Manager Ashleigh Watters was pleased to talk about the original ideas behind the festival and where the Warmerdam family and team are going with the event. Being part of the planning since day one, Watters joked that if she had a second last name, it would be Warmerdam.

“You’re planning this event that you don’t really know what it’s supposed to look or run like. It was a lot of hoping that we were coving everything we needed,” Watters said on the creation of the festival and the ongoing care that goes into the now popular event.

When asked about the inspiration for the event, Watters reflected back on tulip festivals south of the border and a former Agassiz festival. Alexis Warmerdam, having attended many of these festivals in previous years, took inspiration for her own festival in ways of promoting the importance of farming culture.

Tulips have been seen as a symbol of friendship between the countries of Canada and the Netherlands since the 50s. (Justin Moore/The Omega)

“Our main focus is agritourism,” Watters said, referring to the niche trend that involves visiting and experiencing the agriculture lifestyle.

“It’s an industry that’s definitely still around. It’s a huge part of what’s going on in the growth of Abbotsford,” she added.

For Watters, the Tulip Festival is more than just an opportunity to take photos for Instagram, but a chance to take a further look into the culture and lifestyle of farming that is still highly important to the area.

In looking towards the coming years, Watters said that she’s working on making the festival run as smooth as possible, while still keeping the spirit of agritourism alive in the area.

With the usual array of tulips, you can also spot the new Canada 150 red and white tulips, as well as a new variety of off-white tulips aptly named Peter’s Legacy,  after Peter Warmerdam.

This celebration comes after years of dedication and passion from Warmerdam, inspiring his multi-generational family to keep up with their flower-growing traditions.

If you plan on visiting the Bloom Tulip Festival for yourself, high bloom tickets are now available online at abbotsfordtulipfestival.ca.

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