Inaugural Abbotsford Tulip Festival drew 90,000 people

Organizers working on plan to avoid traffic troubles next year after larger-than-expected crowds.

The Abbotsford Tulip Festival has drawn huge crowds in recent weekends.

The first Abbotsford Tulip Festival was far more successful than anticipated and will return next year, albeit with tweaks to its traffic plan, the event’s organizer says.

With around 90,000 visiting the tulips at the North Parallel Road site in April, Alexis Warmerdam said “attendance far surpassed our wildest dreams.” On the busiest day, April 16, around 13,000 people stopped at the festival.

“I’m just floored. I haven’t been able to wrap my head around how many people showed up.”

Warmerdam said a few things contributed to the high attendance numbers, including the good weather and the fact that the Tulips of the Valley event in Agassiz didn’t go forward this year.

She also praised the work of Tourism Abbotsford and said both social and traditional media played a big factor in getting the word out, especially in Vancouver.

The popularity, however, came with a few challenges. Traffic, in particular, was an issue on the busiest weekend days, with thousands backing up traffic on Highway 1 as they attempted to get to the site via the Whatcom Road off-ramp.

“With over double the amount of volume I was expecting, we weren’t able to get that traffic through Whatcom in an efficient manner,” Warmerdam said.

By the end of the festival, organizers were urging visitors to take the No. 3 Road off-ramp, which Warmerdam said eased some of the problems. She said the traffic plan for next year will aim to avoid the backups by trying to funnel visitors towards the No. 3 exit and using Whatcom for those departing the site.

Although the gravel lot set aside for parking was filled on busy days, overflow parking was able to accommodate the demand.

The tulips have all since been topped. The energy the plants once put into growing flowers will now enlarge their bulbs, which will then be harvested. Some will be sold, while others will be replanted next year in an adjacent field, further removed from the highway, that will be the site of next year’s festival.