Despite the wind and chilly weather, members of City council, officials with the City of Lacombe and other community members joined together at Lest We Forget Memorial Park to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Dutch Canadian Friendship Tulip Garden last Thursday morning.
Last year, the City was gifted 700 bulbs of tulips, according to Lyla Peter, manager of Planning and Development for the City of Lacombe, who explained the gifts were well-received and will continue to be a reminder of the relationship between Canada and the Netherlands.
“Today we are celebrating the gift of friendship the City received last year. The 700 tulip bulbs that we were gifted were planted throughout the Lest We Forget Memorial Park last fall by members of the Lacombe Royal Canadian Legion, Parkview Adventist Academy, Lacombe Christian School and other guests,” she explained. “The planting was a chance for members of the community to gather and to celebrate how acts of kindness and friendship should be remembered and celebrated. Each year, as the tulips bloom, it will be a symbol of gratitude and thanks and a reminder of ongoing friendship.”
Providing background information was Mayor Steve Christie, who attended the event and spoke about the meaning behind the garden and what it means for the tulips to be planted in the City.
“I would like to give a brief recap about the story behind this lovely gift and the story behind how the Dutch Canadian Friendship Tulip Garden began in 1940 with the Nazi invasion of the Netherlands,” he said. “The invasion resuscitated the escape of Queen Wilhelmina and the Dutch royal family to the United Kingdom in May of 1940 where they continued to rule in exile and I believe they stayed there for a month before they came to Ottawa, Canada.”
In 1945, the family returned to the Netherlands after being kept safe from harm for five years and Queen Wilhelmina sent Canada 100,000 tulip bulbs. The gift became an annual one and inspired the Dutch Canadian Friendship Tulip Garden initiative across the nation for now 70 years.
The red and white tulips remain a symbol of the close relationship between Canada and the Netherlands as well as the gratitude from the royal Dutch family and the role the Canadian Forces played.
“Today we are honoured to celebrate an enduring tradition of friendship between the Netherlands and Canada as we gaze upon beautiful white and red tulips and thank you all for coming today,” added Christie.
Royal Canadian Legion Lacombe Branch No. 79 President Susan Churchill spoke of the major role Canadian troops played in the liberation of the Netherlands in the Second World War.
“More than 7,600 Canadian soldiers, sailors and airman died fighting for the liberation of the Netherlands. Canadians are fondly remembered by the Dutch as both liberators and saviours who rescued millions from sickness and starvation in 1945. The joyous Canadian summer that followed forged a long-lasting bond of friendship between the two countries.”
Churchill added whenever citizens look at the tulips, they should be reminded of all those who fought; not only the ones who died but also the ones who made it home.
As part of the celebration, the Flatiron Museum and Interpretive Centre is hosting an exhibit regarding Dutch immigration which opened May 3th.