North Okanagan farmer sees bright future despite cancellation of spring tulip festival | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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North Okanagan farmer sees bright future despite cancellation of spring tulip festival

The Bloom Flower Festivals' spring tulip festival in Armstrong was cancelled this year.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/ Bloom Flower Festivals

A popular tulip festival in the North Okanagan won’t be happening this year due to a series of misfortunes, but the family behind it is working to keep the excitement and momentum going for future festivals.

Alexis Szarek and her husband are the founders of Bloom Flower Festivals in Armstrong that typically features over 20 different varieties of tulips in the spring where visitors can pick bunches of flowers and families can take photos in the blooms.

“We’re the only tulip festival in the Okanagan as far as I know, the rest are in the Lower Mainland,” Szarek said. 

A number of unforeseeable incidents across the past two years led up to the unfortunate cancellation of the tulip festival this year.

In the fall the farm at 5050 Knob Hill Road has a sunflower festival.

The first festival ran in fall of 2021, and despite wildfires and some restrictions from COVID, the festival was a success.

“It was really well received, people loved it,” she said. “We were on evacuation alert until the day we opened, but we did it. It wasn’t an easy first year and we had growing challenges from smoke.”

In spring of 2022, the family opened the first tulip festival without any setbacks and followed it up with a successful sunflower festival that fall. Szarek said the weather was so hot, she planned to plant the sunflowers a bit later the next time. 

Tulips were planted for the spring festival in 2023, but at the end of April, the flowers were destroyed by a heat wave, cutting the festival season in half.

“An unseasonable heat wave went through and cooked the flowers,” she said. “I grew up on a tulip farm, I’d never seen that in my life, that was tough.”

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As planned, the sunflowers were planted a bit later for the fall festival to avoid super hot days for visitors. The seeds were planted in July, just before a drought happened, preventing half the crop from germinating. The remaining half was crippled by smoke from area wildfires.

“They didn’t grow well, they didn’t bloom until the middle of October and I’d say they were pathetic looking at that point.”

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The decision to cancel the tulip festival was made late last year.

“Tulips are a great thing but you have to order the bulbs ahead of time and they’re expensive. Because of the income loss from the sunflower festival, we weren’t prepared to buy tulips.

“We didn’t know what disposable income Okanagan residents would have living in such uncertainty after going through those devastating wildfires.”

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Szarek is looking forward to welcoming visitors to the sunflower festival this fall. Despite the challenges over the past couple of years, she said she is happy to be living in the Okanagan and plans to keep putting on sunflower and tulip festivals in the future.  

Szarek started the Abbotsford Bloom Tulip Festival in the Lower Mainland in 2016 and when she moved to the North Okanagan she started the Bloom Flower Festivals.

Go here to read about Szarek, her family, the farm and the upcoming festivals.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Shannon Ainslie or call 250-819-6089 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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