By Greg Laychak
When spring arrives next year Pioneer Park will have a new red and white display blooming, all thanks to a bit of Canadian war history.
Seventy years ago, the Dutch royal family gave Canada a gift of 100,000 tulip bulbs at the end of the Second World War to thank them for their help in liberating the Netherlands and harbouring the family in their time of need.
Last week, Agassiz’s central park was the recipient of a smaller piece of that heritage – in the form of 700 red and white tulip bulbs that were planted in front of the park’s sign.
Volunteers from Agassiz Christian school and the Legion joined District of Kent staff and Mayor John Van Laerhoven to plant the bulbs in celebration of the 70th anniversary of the Friendship Tulip Garden.
“Today we will plant these tulips so we can join in the sea of red and white that will be celebrated from coast to coast,” said Mayor Van Laerhoven to the small crowd gathered near the garden. “Please join us next spring when we host a blooming celebration to mark this special gift.”
Agassiz is one of 140 communities across Canada that was awarded the bulbs by the Canadian Garden Council in collaboration with the Canadian Tulip Festival and the Canadian Nursery Landscape Association.
“Because the district of Kent and Agassiz has such a strong tie to the Netherlands and the Dutch community it was a no-brainer to apply on behalf of the council of the District of Kent to be selected as one of the planting gardens,” said Kerry Hilts, outgoing director of community services for the District of Kent recreation and park services.
After planting a few of the bulbs, Grade 6 Agassiz Christian school student Carter Lanting explained why he was involved in the ceremony.
“All of my heritage is Dutch on one side,” Lanting said. “It’s pretty cool that Holland would send things over here.”
According to district gardener Scott Hurst the tulip bulbs are from Prince Edward Island and will produce their flowers in the spring after they’ve had time to chill in the winter weather.
“Depending on the winter we have, the bulbs will come up mid-March to early April,” Hurst said.
Then the sign about the anniversary planting will go up again in time for the blooming ceremony, because as Hurst said, “you want to have your finale.”
The Pioneer Park display will be featured in full bloom on Canada’s Garden Route website in the spring along with all of the other community tulip bulb recipients.
“This is a wonderful opportunity to bring the youth, seniors and adults of Agassiz together and this will be something that can be remembered next year when everything’s blooming,” said Hilts.